This morning, Fox & Friends pointed out that the labor force participation rate, a favorite statistic cited by Fox News during the Obama administration to dismiss economic successes, can be a misleading indicator of the health of the job market. Fox spent years using a declining labor force participation rate to portray the job market in a negative light while hyping grossly exaggerated claims about the so-called “real unemployment rate.” And President Donald Trump also used the network’s purposeful distortion of the labor force statistic during the 2016 election campaign.
In 2010, the Pew Research Center reported that “10,000 Baby Boomers” will reach retirement age “every day for the next 19 years,” and, as The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler pointed out in 2014, “The composition of the labor force has been affected by the retirement of the leading edge of the Baby Boom generation.”
On the December 5 edition of Fox & Friends, when co-host Brian Kilmeade mentioned the lagging labor force participation rate during a discussion of the health of the economy under Trump, co-host Steve Doocy was quick to point out that the statistic was misleading because “a lot of those people are retired.” The about-face is yet another example since Trump's inauguration in which Fox has abandoned its conspiratorial portrayals of the labor market, often going out of its way to put a positive spin on numbers they would have trashed during the Obama administration:
BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): There’s two things I'm looking at, the trade deals and the workforce. So only 60 percent of the workforce is working right now. How do we get those people into the game?
STUART VARNEY: I don't have an answer to your question. I do believe, however, that when you restore prosperity and you've got real growth, people will be enticed back into the labor force because there’s a decent job available. It makes sense to go back into the labor force, if that’s the case.
STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): But also, a lot of those people are retired.
VARNEY: Yes, a lot of the people are retired, that’s very true.
KILMEADE: Yeah, I don't want to make them work again. I mean they’re fine.
DOOCY: Move to Florida.
VARNEY: I should be retired.