In a March 9 report on the recently released unemployment rate by the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), CNN senior business correspondent Ali Velshi falsely claimed that "[t]he unemployment rate has dropped in the United States to a historic low of 4.5 percent." In fact, not only is the unemployment rate not at a "historic low," but the current 4.5 percent rate is still higher than when President Bush took office in January 2001. At that time, the rate was 4.2 percent, as Media Matters for America has documented. In its December 2000 report, the BLS further reported that "[t]he jobless rate had ranged from 3.9 to 4.1 percent since October 1999."
This is not the first time Velshi has overstated the historical significance of certain economic indicators. On October 19, 2006, he reported that the Dow Jones industrial average had been setting "record after record after record," but failed to adjust for inflation, which would have shown that the Dow was well below its peak set in January 2000, as Media Matters noted.
From the March 9 edition of CNN's American Morning:
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN (host): Well, you know, one of the most important measures of our country's economic health is the unemployment rate, and it was released just a moment ago. Ali Velshi's going to join us in a second with the jobs report. Ali, hey.
VELSHI: Soledad, the numbers just come in. The unemployment rate has dropped in the United States to a historic low of 4.5 percent. It was 4.6 percent going into this report. There were even some people who thought it might tick up to 4.7 percent. The expectation was that 100,000 new jobs will be created in the United States in February. They came in at 97,000 jobs -- that's pretty much dead on. Four-point-five percent as a national unemployment rate is good news for workers because it means more demand for workers, and they can demand higher wages.
It's generally good news right now, because it also means that while more people are employed, more people can spend money, and while we've been having these discussions about the possibility of a recession, more people earning money means lower chances of unemployment. It makes people feel better about the economy.
Now going into this report, the futures were indicating a lower open on the markets. This could change things. We could see a better day on the markets. We're working to recover some of the heavy losses we've seen in the last 10 days on the stock market.
So the news here, the big news here, is that the unemployment rate is down by one-tenth of 1 percent to 4.5 percent. We're less than an hour away from the opening of markets. This is going to have quite an impact on trading today.