Look no further than Twitter around 8:30 am on the first Friday of each month to watch the media echo chamber, well, echoing.
It’s a regular ritual for financial and economics writers, who publicly count down the minutes until the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases its monthly jobs report. The cocktail they serve followers is one part data, one part analysis, and two parts humor—and it has become such a fixture on Twitter that many journalists who don’t cover the economy join the party, despite its inside-baseball flavor. The BLS reports, data-rich breakdowns of the past four week’s changes in nonfarm payroll employment nationwide, are seemingly made for this sort of social (media) function.
It starts with a hashtag, #NFPGuesses, that’s used to predict the number of jobs gained or lost each month. Most journalists submit educated guesses, based at least partly on industry analysts’ predictions. The most recognizable faces in the crowd — seasoned tweeters, often with huge followings — also feed the BLS beast with tongue-in-cheek forecasts, nerdy financial jokes, and a healthy dose of self-deprecation. Joseph Weisenthal, executive editor of Business Insider and known on Twitter as @TheStalwart, is perhaps the most ardent practitioner of this custom. And his absence this month—he’s on vacation; the horror!—was noted.
Really weird to have jobs day without @TheStalwart— Shane Ferro (@shaneferro) August 1, 2014
To be sure, the jobs numbers provide only snapshots of the wildly complex US economy. (Friday’s numbers were relatively strong but below analysts’ expectations, though the actual outcome isn’t the point on Twitter.) And they’re usually revised as more data pours in over the months, anyway. But the Twitter response provides a useful and entertaining window through which to view the age-old reporting race to obtain and analyze data, along with the repartee among journalists in the trenches.
Here’s a sampling of this morning’s tweets: