ORIGINAL POST (6/16):
My wickid smaht friend Daisy (who I am trying to convince to blog with me at CriticalMASS) is foaming mad today because once again the Patrick Administration is picking and choosing its jobs numbers, and Boston.com is happily parroting their spin under a "staff" byline. She has a point.
This is the brief article that has Daisy in a dither - not the text so much as the headline: "Mass. unemployment rate drops to 7.6%." Unsurprisingly, the "news" the Patrick Administration is focusing on today is that number, juxtaposed with the national rate of 9.1%. "On the mend and on the move" and what-not.
The trouble is, even as our unemployment rate is going down, we continue to lose jobs - 4,000 of them last month. Those two apparent realities (job losses combined with lower overall unemployment rate) suggest our workforce is contracting, as more of the long-term unemployed simply give up and drop out of the workforce. That's hardly good news. The Patrick Administration's spin - echoed in the Globe's headline - is exactly the opposite of what it was in months when the unemployment rate went up, but we added jobs. Then (understandably) their focus was on the jobs, not the rate. Now it's the rate, not the jobs.
By the way, our total workforce shrunk in May, along with the number of employed residents. Despite all of that, perceived reality ends up a function of the headline, not the math (hence, Daisy's frustration with the headline).
It seems May's job losses came as a surprise to the Patrick Administration. Otherwise, it is unlikely that Greg Bialecki, Patrick's Secretary of Housing and Economic Development, would have written this earlier in the week on Red Mass Group (in the comments under his initial post*):
We think the better measure of our success is the employment data: is our economy adding jobs? We think a lower unemployment rate is not necessarily the best measure of economic success. The unemployment rate may go down because people stop looking for work or retire or because people leave the state (this has been a problem for Massachusetts). We obviously do want the unemployment rate to go down (as it has been doing), but we believe that if our economy keeps adding jobs, then it will do so.Secretary Bialecki ought to share this bit of wisdom with the Governor's Deputy Press Secretary Alec Loftus, who today is merrily Tweeting: "MA unemployment drops to 7.6 %; lowest since Feb. '09. Faster and stronger than rest of U.S. @ 9.1%." The first two points are accurate as a factual matter, if misleading in context. The last one, the bit about "faster/stronger"? Not so much. As Secretary Bialecki wrote, "The unemployment rate may go down because people stop looking for work or retire or because people leave the state (this has been a problem for Massachusetts)."
* I hope the fact that he unwittingly stepped on the Administration's future message here does not deter Secretary Bialecki from engaging on economic issues at RMG and elsewhere. I was surprised and pleased to see that post, and the fact that he followed it up with substantive responses to the comments it elicited. Kudos for that.