A new study has suggested that the economic stimulus resulted in the loss of approximately 550,000 jobs. Given that this could help reinforce the false conservative narrative that "the stimulus failed," it was bound to receive airtime on Fox News.
Today, the study made its way onto one of Fox's "straight news" programs, America Live:
MARTHA MacCALLUM (guest host): How about this? There's a brand new verdict when you take a look at the research that has been done by a university study that is just out on President Obama's stimulus plan and what it really did for jobs in the United States.
This is an exhaustive study done by two economists, and it says basically that the plan saved -- you remember the, you know, sort of "saved or created" moniker there -- that it saved 450,000-government sector jobs. But this study says that it actually destroyed or delayed 1 million private-sector jobs. Meaning that at the end of the day, this effort cost more jobs -- the trillion dollar stimulus -- than it created. This is a hugely controversial study that is out there, and it has some incredible implications.
The conservative blog RedState is also promoting the study.
First, it is misleading to call this study, by Timothy Conley of the University of Western Ontario and Bill Dupor of Ohio State, "exhaustive," as the authors themselves note in the conclusion:
Much work on the effects of the ARRA remains to be done. We found, surprisingly, either negligible or negative effects of the Act on total employment; thus, it is important to explore whether alternative empirical specifications, besides the historical `Keynesian multiplier' approach of Section 5 used by other researchers, are capable of finding a significant positive jobs effect.
More important, Fox overplays the study as a game-changer. It is not. It is a single study added to a pile of estimates that say the stimulus helped curb job losses and increase economic output.
As Media Matters points out when Fox personalities and guests inaptly claim stimulus failure as fact, those estimates are numerous. They include estimates from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the White House Council of Economic Advisers, IHS/Global Insight, Moody's Economy.com, and Macroeconomic Advisers. Surveys by ABC News, the National Association of Business Economics, and The Wall Street Journal reveal similar judgments among economists.
Fox could have paired coverage of the study with an overview of the opinions of professional economists, or even considered a Federal Reserve study released this February that estimated nearly 1 million jobs are attributable to the stimulus. Instead, any survey of other economic estimates of the stimulus was completely absent from the segment.
Conley and Dupor's study is not without its critics. Noah Smith, a University of Michigan graduate student in economics, suggests that its finding are statistically insignificant and do not suggest a significant effect on job creation:
But, given the lack of any statistically significant findings, this paper does not deliver the results that it advertised. Conley and Dupor's abstract should read "We find no evidence for a significant effect of the ARRA on job creation." That would be scientifically honest, but would not turn a lot of heads. Instead, the abstract makes the more politically incendiary claim that the ARRA destroyed jobs, which the authors actually did not find.
One could write off MacCallum's description of the study results as the sort of false balance that comes with sloppy reporting. Then again, one could also examine America Live's on-screen graphics during the segment and find the study's arguable findings as fact, without attribution: