Washington Post misrepresents Labor Force Participation Rate, Unemployment rate blamed on Baby Boomers, Selective quoting, Post receives 4 Orwells
“The United States economy has lost more jobs than it has added since the recovery began over a year ago.”…NY Times Sept. 20, 2010.
“the Times of the nineteenth of December had published the official forecasts of the output of various classes of consumption goods in the fourth quarter of 1983, which was also the sixth quarter of the Ninth Three-Year Plan. Today’s issue contained a statement of the actual output, from which it appeared that the forecasts were in every instance grossly wrong. Winston’s job was to rectify the original figures by making them agree with the later ones.”…George Orwell, “1984”
“And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed
–if all records told the same tale–then the lie passed into
history and became truth. “Who controls the past,” ran the
Party slogan, “controls the future: who controls the present
controls the past.”…George Orwell, “1984″
The Washington Post on May 4, 2012 posted a very misleading article titled “The incredible shrinking labor force.” Is this another example of sloppy or biased journalism or both?
First the graph they presented with a source given of Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The verbage in the top right corner looked suspicious, “As the most recent recession hits the workforce, larger numbers of baby boomers begin to retire.” Yesterday I called the Bureau of Labor Statistics and discovered that they had not placed those words there. It was the work of the Washington Post.
So why did the Post superimpose that wording about baby boomers on the graph?
From the article.
“In April, the U.S. economy added a mere 115,000 jobs, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data released Friday. In a normal month, that would not even be enough to keep up with new entrants into the labor market. But in this economy, it was enough to drive unemployment from 8.2 percent down to 8.1 percent, the lowest point since January 2009.
The explanation is a little-watched measure known as the “labor force participation rate.” That tracks the number of working-age Americans who are holding a job or looking for one. Between March and April, it dropped by 342,000. But because the official unemployment rate counts only those workers who are actively seeking work, that actually made the unemployment rate go down.
Critics of the Obama administration have been quick to seize on this as the real reason for the falling unemployment rate. In February, the Republican National Committee released a research note on “The Missing Worker,” arguing that “over 3 million unemployed workers have called it quits due to Obamanomics.”
Economists say the story is considerably more complicated. For one thing, the trend predates President Obama. And while part of the story is clearly that the labor force is shrinking because the bad economy is driving workers out, another significant factor is that baby boomers are beginning to retire early — a trend that has worrying implications for future growth.”
“But a number of economists are arguing that the recession is distracting people from the real story — long-run demographic trends that have nothing to do with the current economy. Baby boomers are starting to retire en masse, which means that there are fewer eligible American workers.”
“But since 2000, the labor force rate has been steadily declining as the baby-boom generation has been retiring. Because of this, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago expects the labor force participation rate to be lower in 2020 than it is today, regardless of how well the economy does.”
“But the other 65 percent are people who have left the labor force and do not want a job. The biggest chunk of that group seems to be composed of baby boomers, those 55 and older, who have decided to retire early.”
There are some truths, half truths and lies mixed together in this article. Apparently the government does expect the aging baby boomers to impact job numbers more by 2020.
However, the article was crafted to give the impression that baby boomers are a big reason for the declining Labor Force Participation Rate now.
Two government sources reveal that is false.
From the Congressional Budget Office January 2012.
“Participation in the Labor Force. The unemployment rate would be even higher than it is now had participation in the labor force not declined as much as it has over the past few years. The rate of participation in the labor force fell from 66 percent in 2007 to an average of 64 percent in the second half of 2011, an unusually large decline over so short a time. About a third of that decline reflects factors other than the downturn, such as the aging of the baby-boom generation. But even with those factors removed, the estimated decline in that rate during the past four years is larger than has been typical of past
downturns, even after accounting for the greater severity of this downturn. Had that portion of the decline in the labor force participation rate since 2007 that is attributable to neither the aging of the baby boomers nor the downturn in the business cycle (on the basis of the experience in previous downturns) not occurred, the unemployment rate in the fourth quarter of 2011 would have been about 1¼ percentage points higher than the actual rate of 8.7 percent.”
From the Bureau of Labor Statistics January 2012.
Monthly Labor Review, Employment Outlook 2012 – 2012.
“In contrast to the factors exerting downward pressure on labor force participation rates, at least two factors have been responsible for strengthening the rates, although not enough to offset the factors pulling them down:
The labor force participation rate of the 55-years-and-older age group has increased considerably since 1996. In 2000, the rate was 32.4 percent; a decade later, in 2010, it had risen significantly, to 40.2 percent. (See table 3.) BLS projects that the labor force participation rate of those 55 years and older will reach 43.0 percent in 2020. The continued gradual increase in the labor force participation rate of this age group, multiplied by the sheer number of baby boomers in the group, is expected to partially compensate for the multiple other factors pushing the rate to lower levels and is expected to keep it from declining even further in the future.”
For this sloppy and/or misleading article, the Washington Post receives 4 Orwells.