Fox Business' Varney & Co. was virtually alone in criticizing the Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) monthly jobs report for November 2015, which host Stuart Varney called “mediocre.” Nearly every other media outlet, including Fox News Channel, reported that continued monthly job creation and stable unemployment levels stood as proof that the economy is strengthening.
On the December 4 edition of Varney & Co., Varney invited former Bush administration Labor Department official Paul Conway to discuss the BLS' monthly jobs report for November. Varney claimed that the creation of 211,000 jobs in November was “mediocre,” and Conway added that the U.S. economy is “aggressively sustaining mediocrity.” In addition to downplaying the strong monthly job creation figure, neither Varney nor Conway mentioned that the jobs figure beat expectations by 11,000, or that the BLS upwardly-revised positive job creation figures from September and October by an additional 35,000.
Other media outlets took a much different approach to the November report. CNN's New Day called the report “good news,” pointing to “strong job growth” as evidence of an “improving economy.” The New York Times called the numbers “robust” and included a chart illustrating how the unemployment rate has steadily improved over the last three years:
The harsh jobs report criticism on Varney & Co. is perplexing, because Varney and Conway's statements came less than an hour after conservative economist Steve Moore called the November report “a good number,” adding “everything I just heard I like a lot,” on Fox Business' Mornings with Maria. The misleading criticism also came just minutes after Fox co-host Martha MacCallum and Fox Business correspondent Liz Claman discussed how “significant” the monthly figures were as proof of the strength of the overall economy on Fox News' America's Newsroom.
Fox personalities have a long history of downplaying the significance of positive employment figures. On the November 6 edition of Fox & Friends, co-hosts Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Steve Doocy stumbled through a brief segment on BLS' October jobs report, which The Washington Post called “stellar,” complaining that the economy created “only 271,000 jobs.”
See the full segment from Varney & Co. below:
STUART VARNEY (HOST): I want to get to the jobs report. Not spectacular. I repeat, I think it's mediocre, 211,000 new jobs. Come on in Paul Conway, our Labor Department bulldog, if you don't mind me calling you that. You never call this a strong recovery. Are you sticking with that analysis after that number, 211,000 jobs?
PAUL CONWAY: I am. I mean context is important, so let's take a look at last year. The average growth last year per month for jobs was 260,000. So, 211,000, I think what we're doing is aggressively sustaining mediocrity. And I think it's important because I just don't think that those numbers are the ones that are required -- in the quality of jobs -- to pull people off the sidelines. This month, professional services are down. Manufacturing is down. We like the fact that construction is up. And health care, but you really need sustained growth across all sectors to bring more people in. That's something that Janet Yellen, I don't think, is on message with this week.
VARNEY: Comment please on what's called the U-6 number, which is often called the “real unemployment rate.” It went up to 9.9 percent. The significance, please?
CONWAY: Sometimes you will see an uptick in unemployment numbers if more people are trying to join the workforce. But in this case, if you take a look back over the past many months, I still think that that number is a very disturbing number when you add it in with the labor force participation rate. Because basically what you're saying is, you've got millions of Americans in jobs where they want to work full-time and they can't, and millions of Americans who are working in part-time jobs who are just doing that to pay bills, and waiting for something to come up that aligns with talent and their education.
VARNEY: Alright, Paul Conway. Thank you very much indeed.