Forget “cooking the books.” Fox has a found a more direct way to turn news of job growth into a bad thing for President Obama — just insist it’s not true.
Last month, after a strong jobs report showed the unemployment rate dropping below 8 percent, conservatives at Fox and beyond convinced themselves that the Bureau of Labor Statistics waspulling some funny business to boost the president a month before the election. This morning, BLS released its new monthly report, and it’s more good news: The economy added 171,000 jobs in October, almost 50,000 more than economists expected, and the previous two months’ reports were revised upward to the tune of 84,000 additional jobs.
So did the patriots at Fox News let out a whoop that more Americans had found jobs last month? Nope. In the first hour after the report came out, they found every possible way to spin the news as bad for Obama and good for Mitt Romney. When announcing the numbers, the Fox personalities always focused not on the number of new jobs added, but the fact that the unemployment rate ticked up from 7.8 to 7.9 percent, mentioning the 171,000 new jobs almost as an afterthought.
But as Andrew Leonard explains, the fact that the rate ticked up slightly is in all likelihood a positive sign — the number of people seeking jobs jumped upward, suggesting that more people are confident enough now to start looking for work again.
Don’t try telling that to Fox host Martha MacCallum, who rolled out a chart showing that the jobless rate has only gone up and stayed high under Obama, with the 2 percent drop under the president’s four years almost imperceptible. Of course, the chart begins in December 2007, before the economy imploded, when unemployment was at 5 percent, so how could it look otherwise? Next, MacCallum insisted that the unemployment rate everyone is talking about is not the “real unemployment rate.” The “real” rate, she and co-host Bill Hemmer said, is the wider so-called U-6 number, which includes people who have jobs, but only part-time and are looking for full-time employment. That rate is indeed useful, and some economists do think it’s a more accurate measure of joblessness. But it’s not the one that most people look at. On the other hand, it is a much bigger absolute number, 14.6 percent, thus making it a better story for Fox.