The economy gained 45,000 jobs in August — 62,000 in the private sector. Yet the media have been telling us since Friday that the United States added “zero” jobs, as the economy essentially ground to a halt.
I’m not here to defend anyone. In fact, 62,000 is a terrible number, and is really all the proof we need that the fragile recovery has flickered out. But for news organizations to adopt the methodology used by the government amounts to a form of innumeracy.
The key to this is that the government counts the 45,000 Verizon workers who were on strike as having lost their jobs. There may be reasons for the government to do that, but it’s ludicrous for the media to repeat it. They didn’t lose their jobs, they’re back at work and thus those 45,000 jobs shouldn’t enter into anyone’s calculations.
So who did lose their jobs? Government workers — 17,000 of them. And, as I already noted, the economy added 62,000 private-sector jobs. Thus there is no basis for asserting that there was zero job growth.
Oh, wait — there is one thing: the “optics of a giant zero in the jobs column,” as the New York Times puts it. It’s a stark bit of political symbolism. It’s just that it also happens not to be true.