It isn’t surprising that the US Department of Labor, in their article accompanying the May unemployment data release, chose to highlight the fact that unemployment fell in half of US states that month.
“Not until paragraph 11 did the article mention that the national unemployment rate rose during May, and that was buried as a single sentence within a paragraph touting more jobs added to the economy,” writes James Taylor of Media Trackers. “That single sentence fragment, which the second half of the sentence attempted to rationalize, was the only negative reference in the entire 13-paragraph story.”
But whatever, that’s just a national agency with self-interest talking, not the impartial press… right?
Nope. Apparently the media took a similar tack when covering the news that national unemployment rose from 7.5 to 7.6 percent in May, while Florida’s rate dropped from 7.2 to 7.1 percent.
According to Taylor, media outlets painted the two stats in a peculiar way: congratulating the national shifts while poopooing Florida’s progress.
The uptick in national unemployment was described as positive and “for a good reason” by the Associated Press, who suggested that it implied more Americans feeling confident that they could find work and beginning to seek jobs.
Yet in a simultaneous article, the AP described Florida’s improvement negatively, describing how it could be a reflection of fewer actual jobs in the state, or people leaving the labor force.
“The Tampa Bay Times and many other state media outlets joined the Associated Press criticizing the decline in Florida unemployment,” writes Taylor. “Since Scott took office, the unemployment rate in Florida has not risen during a single month and has fallen faster than in any other state in the nation. Nevertheless, the Times article described Florida’s unemployment rate and economic situation as ‘Jekyll-and-Hyde’ and ‘murky’ while masking a ‘darker side to the recovery’.”
Florida’s jobs rating may in fact be impacted by the size of the labor force, etcetera, but then the same for national jobs. If an uptick in unemployment nationally means people are feeling confident and excited to reenter the job market, certainly this would also be true in Florida.
Seems like the vocabulary of unemployment reporting is more “murky” than the numbers themselves.