Fox News is scrambling to respond to yet another positive economic indicator after the Bureau of Labor Statistics published a jobs report for July that far exceeded expert forecasts. In response to data showing that the American labor market is even stronger than expected, Fox quickly pivoted to hyping inflation and the looming threat of recession, lying about gas prices, and complaining that more workers haven’t reentered the job market.
On Friday, August 5, the BLS published its preliminary monthly jobs report for July showing that the economy created 528,000 new jobs last month as the average national unemployment rate ticked down to 3.5%. The strong monthly job creation was more than double what economists had predicted and marked the 19th consecutive month of positive job growth for the U.S. Crucially, the report showed that the economy has regenerated all of the jobs lost during the Trump administration at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The robust jobs numbers for July were coupled with positive revisions to strong reports for May and June, which revealed the economy created 28,000 more jobs than previously reported.
But while this overwhelmingly positive July jobs report is largely being celebrated by economists, it was instead cause for concern at Fox News. Rather than talking honestly about what the report revealed, or amending the network’s talking points to accept the reality of a strong labor market, Fox opted to simply lie about the state of the economy.
During an appearance on Fox & Friends, Fox Business host Charles Payne attempted in vain to throw cold water on the data, pivoting to partisan talking points about inflation and supposedly lagging labor force participation to deflect from the topline numbers:
Payne admitted that the July report “was a strong number” before confusingly claiming monthly job creation “had been trending lower” in recent months. (This is false; monthly job creation has been fairly steady.)
Completely overlooking that the BLS data show the economy has recovered all of the jobs lost during the Trump administration, Payne also complained that the labor force participation rate remains slightly lower than it was in February 2020 “despite the fact that wages are higher and jobs are plentiful.” Payne then lied about overly generous welfare programs discouraging work, falsely claiming “people who are leaving their jobs are making significantly more than people who are staying at work.”
Payne and Fox News have been telling a version of this lie for years, but the claim received renewed attention after the economic emergency created by the pandemic. There has never been conclusive evidence that overly generous benefits discourage work, and cutting unemployment benefits last year, which Payne demanded to spur job creation, resulted in no influx of workers returning to the workforce.
Payne’s continued focus on the labor force participation rate is also a perfect example of cherry-picking, in which he has selected a number that was guaranteed to still be lower for structural reasons. According to a recent analysis by Chmura Economics & Analytics, most of the drop in labor force participation is driven by people age 55 and older choosing not to reenter formal work following the brief but steep recession created by the pandemic. According to Chmura, government benefits only partially explain the decision of older workers to remain out of the workforce, with other factors including “worries about workplace safety and contracting Covid-19, or simply uncertainty about the current state of the workforce.”
An even more detailed analysis from the Brookings Institution last year found that “expanded and more generous” government benefits may have initially incentivized some workforce exits, but they don’t explain the continued decrease in participation while wages are increasing and after benefits were cut. Significantly, Brookings also noted that younger workers have “led the rebound” in the labor participation rate, and that a continued lag in the rate is “primarily due to a lack of re-entry among retirees and not elevated exits.”
Payne wasn’t the only Fox personality to use the segment on the jobs report to intentionally mislead the audience. Co-host Ainsley Earhardt joined the fray by downplaying the recent historic declines in gasoline prices, which have fallen for 50 consecutive days.
Ironically, Fox’s lame attempt to deflect from positive economic news stands in stark contrast to how the very same network personalities were discussing the jobs report ahead of its release. Just minutes earlier, and prior to the release of the BLS data, Fox & Friends co-host Will Cain previewed the upcoming release by hyping forecasts that predicted the jobs number would be much lower. While attempting to mock the Biden administration, Cain stated that “as is the case with everything with politics these days, reality doesn’t matter; it’s only a matter of how you define it.”
Cain hyped predictions for the upcoming July jobs report — presumably from Fox Business’ own analysts, who were considerably more pessimistic than unbiased experts — only to be proved wrong a few minutes later. Perhaps it was not the Biden administration struggling to conjure its own version of reality?