Deception In the Numbers

I have a thing about deceptive advertising, and deceptive promotional practices. Lately the news media has taken up the drum for various causes, and is using age old deceptive practices in the reporting of the news.

The latest one is in jobless numbers. “Jobless claims fall for fourth straight week”, the headline said.

Makes it sound like fewer people are claiming unemployment benefits, right? Wrong.

Turns out this is only the number of NEW claims that has declined by a very small amount (about 1/1000 of 1%). This means that the RATE OF INCREASE has slowed some. That is all.

Then they reported the numbers of continuing claims – and stated that the difference between this time this year, and this time last year, is good news. Down 2 million! Of course, there is no mention of the fact that in the last month or two, claims have simply run out for millions of unemployed Americans. Further, the number does NOT include people who have moved from initial benefits to extended benefits – so it isn’t even a true number on total people receiving unemployment benefits! They don’t release those numbers. They only track the initial claims, and the initial continuing claims!

So, with partial numbers, they are crowing that jobs are returning. There is no differentiation between people who got jobs, and people who moved either into extended benefits, or simply dropped out of the unemployment benefit pool altogether, but who still do not have jobs. And overall jobless rates have always been inaccurate anyway, because the only people who are counted are those who are registered with state employment agencies as actively seeking work – if a person has given up, and is not reporting weekly, they simply are not counted. Further, temporary JOBS are counted, but temporary unemployment is NOT.

Census jobs are skewing the numbers also. They have nothing to do with the economy, they occur every ten years on a planned schedule. They are very temporary jobs, and will have no lasting effect, and do not in any way reflect any positive economic change.

It would be like measuring sugar consumption in the US by measuring the number of bags of sugar sold at the grocery store. We could say that if the sale of bagged sugar fell in the retail markets, that sugar consumption is down, while ignoring sales of all other packaging of sugar, and ignoring increases in the sale of soda, cookies, candy, etc. It is disingenuous, and deceptive.

I get the feeling that the media is trying to tell us that things are better so that we’ll believe what they say, regardless of what is really happening. The amount of deception over the economy is appalling, and is happening across the board, with numbers being falsely labeled. Somehow, the media thinks that if they tell the American people often enough that things are fine, that we’ll believe it, even when our neighbors are still struggling and losing jobs, and even though our own jobs are in peril, and our businesses are facing unprecedented challenges.

I’m not a “doom and gloom” kind of person. But right now, we have to be realistic about what is happening. You cannot stay prepared and make sensible decisions when the information on which you need to base some of those decisions is false.

There are people who need the help of kind neighbors, and by being prepared, we can be givers, and not takers. Deceptive reporting is not helping anyone to achieve that goal.

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