Sometimes a news outlet doesn’t even agree with itself. That was the case with CNN’s coverage of the latest unemployment news on March 9. Reporter Ali Velshi called it “good news” but CNN.com headlined the same news “weakest in 2 years.”
Velshi’s “American Morning” report was almost entirely upbeat and focused on the drop in the unemployment rate from 4.6 percent to 4.5. “Four-point-five percent as a national unemployment rate is good news for workers because it means more demand for workers and they can demand higher wages,” Velshi told viewers.
He added that it was also good news because “more people earning money means lower chances of unemployment.” Velshi concluded that the report would have a big impact. “It makes people feel better about the economy,” he argued.
That wasn’t how his network’s Web site looked at the news: “The gain of 97,000 was the smallest since January 2005, weaker than even the final readings in the two months after Hurricane Katrina that fall.”
That wasn’t all. The CNN.com account was more pessimistic than Velshi, saying “payroll growth was the weakest in two years in February.” The online story did admit “a lower unemployment rate and a revision higher for January job growth hinted at surprising resilience in the nation's labor market.”
Despite Velshi’s upbeat presentation, he did leave out the revision adding 94,000 jobs to the two previous months’ reports. CNN.com did mention that unemployment numbers had been revised for January, but it left out the revision to December that added another 59,000 jobs.
Anchor Soledad O’Brien had it right when she introduced the jobs segment. “One of the most important measures of our country's economic health is the unemployment rate and it was released just a moment ago,” she explained. It would be nice if CNN were consistent in how it covered that measure.