“Right Brained” or Half-Wits? Numbers in the News Media

Except for some financial news outlets, the news media reported the January BLS job loss number without context . Most news consumers would find it helpful to put the 598,000 number in a more complete context when presented with job losses described as “the most since 1974”.

 In full context, the Bureau of Labor Statics reports that the economy was left with only 77,657,000 million jobs in December of 1974 after losing 602,000. Currently, we still have 134,580,000 as of the end of last month. Or the 1974 drop represented 0.78% compared to the current 0.44%. Or we would need to lose 1,043,000 jobs in a month to have a proportional loss.

Not coincidentally, 1974 was also during a period of extreme government interference with the economy. A complete historical context would better serve  news consumers.

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