Audit Notes: BLS BS, another print turnaround forecast, deficits

The LAT and CNBC let Jack Welch frame the jobs numbers

Don’t miss Brendan Nyhan’s excellent review of coverage of the unemployment-numbers conspiracy theory kicked off by Jack Welch on Friday.

And I’ve got two more examples of poor press coverage to point out on this issue. The Los Angeles Times gave the nutty, evidence-free assertion the he said/she said treatment on the front of the business pages. Here’s the lede:

The unusually steep drop in the U.S. jobless rate just weeks before the presidential election has sparked howls of protest from some conservatives that the White House cooked the books to boost President Obama’s chances.

At least the Times calls it a “conspiracy theory” a few paragraphs down, but it shouldn’t have allowed lunatics to hijack the frame in the first place.

On CNBC, unsurprisingly, the reporters were doing the framing, too. Carl Quintanilla had Labor Secretary Hilda Solis on for an interview and his first question was about the cranks’ conspiracy theory:

His second question was also about the conspiracy, asking a Cabinet member about Jack Welch, “who knows a bit about how economic data are created,” (boy, does he!) and his fact-free tweet.

— NetNewsCheck reports that Borrell Associates forecasts print newspaper ads will actually increase next year by 0.5 percent, while digital ads will jump 30 percent.

That sounds great, but it’s worth noting that back in 2009 Borrell was predicting newspaper ads would start recovering by 2010:

So here are our latest projections: Newspapers will be down this year, then they’ll start going back up. We expect a 2.4% rebound in newspaper advertising in 2010, and continued single-digit increases over the next several years. By 2014, newspaper ad revenues will be up about 8.7% over 2009 levels. While national newspaper advertising will do just fine, we foresee the greatest growth in local print - going from $8.9 billion this year to $10.1 billion, a 13.4% increase.

Instead total ads (print and online) dropped 6.3 percent in 2010 and 7.3 percent last year, according to the Newspaper Association of America. Ads in 2012 are down 6.6 percent through the first half of the year.

In other words: Don’t bet on a turnaround any time soon.

— Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers turn a big piece of media conventional wisdom—that Republicans are more fiscally responsible presidents than Democrats—on its head:

A study of similar events over previous election cycles — by economists Justin Wolfers, Erik Snowberg and Eric Zitzewitz — found that since 1980, bond yields have tended to rise on news that a Republican will be elected. The pattern held last week, when interest rates on government bonds increased slightly after Romney’s strong performance in the first presidential debate.

This record suggests that markets believe the modern Republican Party has abandoned its historical commitment to fiscal responsibility. They have been right: Presidents Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush all presided over a rising national debt, in many cases despite reasonably strong economic growth. By contrast, before the last recession, debt has fallen as a share of gross domestic product under every Democratic president since at least Harry Truman.

Stocks rise a percentage point or two on average when it’s clear a Republican president will take office, but Stephenson and Wolfers note that doesn’t necessarily mean investors are predicting a better economy.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , , ,