The next day, the actual number for this year's first quarter came out.
Oops. USA Today's Web site headline for an Associated Press story read: "Weak 0.6 percent economic growth in Q1 is better than forecast." In English, this means that since the recovery began in Bush's first year in office, we have had zero quarters of negative economic growth, let alone consecutive ones.
Now, on to last week's jobs numbers.
The day before the Labor Department released the numbers, The Associated Press warily wrote: "Investors are predicting another gloomy reading on U.S. employment on Friday. The Labor Department's report is expected to show a 75,000 net loss in jobs for April … and a rise in unemployment to 5.2 percent from 5.1 percent in March." So, what happened?
Oops. In April, the economy lost 20,000 jobs. Nothing to throw a parade about, but far fewer than the economic "experts" predicted. And of unemployment? Well, the rate fell from 5.1 percent to 5.0 percent. This forced The Associated Press to grudgingly concede that, well, maybe things aren't quite as bad as we thought: "The latest snapshot of the nationwide employment conditions -- while clearly still weak -- was better than many economists were anticipating. They were bracing for job cuts of 75,000 and for the unemployment rate to climb to 5.2 percent. The unemployment rate … fell to 5 percent from 5.1 percent in March. That survey showed more people finding employment than those who didn't."
But now, here comes a knuckleball. Since the economic news failed to match the predicted gloominess, The Associated Press moved the goal post. "Under one rough rule," the AP wrote, "if the economy contracts for six straight months it is considered to be in a recession. That didn't happen in the last recession -- in 2001 -- though."
No, the 2001 recession, according to the NBER, did not show two consecutive quarters of negative economic growth -- it had three.
By October of 1992, when President George Herbert Walker Bush ran for re-election against Bill Clinton, the economy was 18 months into a recovery. But as Investor's Business Daily noted, 90 percent of the newspaper stories on the economy were negative. Yet the following month, when Clinton defeated Bush-41, suddenly only 14 percent of economic news stories were negative!
But only a cynic would suggest a liberal media bias. And you know me better than that.