Fox used a dishonest comparison of two different measures of unemployment to suggest the unemployment rate has nearly doubled since President Obama took office.
During a segment criticizing the Obama administration for its messaging on the economy, a Fox & Friends graphic claimed that the “real unemployment rate” had increased from 7.8% in 2009 to 14.7% now:
But in order to make the claim that unemployment had increased from 7.8% to 14.7% during Obama's time in office, Fox had to conflate two different statistics and completely distort Obama's jobs record.
The 7.8 percent figure is the official unemployment rate from January 2009. This statistic reports on people who are unemployed and actively looking for a job. But as of the latest report, the official unemployment rate is 8.1 percent (0.3 percent higher than it was in January 2009), not 14.7 percent.
The 14.7 percent figure is a completely different measurement of the unemployed, which in addition to those who are actively looking for work, also counts people who are unemployed and discouraged from looking for a new job, part-time workers who prefer full-time employment, and more. This alternative measure of unemployment, which conservatives often call the “real” unemployment rate, was 14.2 percent in January 2009 -- 0.5 percentage points lower than it is today.
Indeed an accurate chart of this statistic would show that the rate has declined in recent years:
After being presented with the Fox graphic, Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham said: “Other than Fox News, where are you really seeing those statistics?”
Where, indeed? Fox has quite the history when it comes to presenting misleading unemployment data to its viewers:
- Last December, Fox News presented a distorted chart detailing the monthly unemployment rates during 2011, which had the November unemployment rate of 8.6 percent plotted on the same line as the previous month's 9 percent, and higher than the 8.8 percent rate from March 2011.
- Earlier in December, Fox aired a misleading graphic announcing the unemployment rate dropping from 9 percent to 8.6 percent by... showing the old 9 percent rate with a red arrow pointing down, without a mention of the then-current rate of 8.6 percent.
- In June 2010, Fox aired a misleading chart which purported to show “job loss by quarter,” but really just picked random months and completely distorted the scale of its chart.
UPDATE: On September 12, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade said he wanted “to clarify” the graphic displayed the previous day. Co-host Gretchen Carlson then noted that the unemployment rate had not, in fact, increased from 7.8 percent to 14.7 percent during Obama's time in office.
KILMEADE: Hey, I want to clarify a graphic we used on the show yesterday. We were comparing the real unemployment rate to when Obama took office -- President Obama took office. The real rate includes those working part-time because of economic reasons.
CARLSON: So the real unemployment rate now 14.7 percent. The percentage when the president took office in 2009, should have read 14.2 percent, not 7.8 percent.