Surprising Figures Don't Stop NYT From Seeing "Recession"

Milder-than-expected job losses in April nonetheless spurred a lead story shouting the loss as "powerful evidence that the United States is almost certainly now ensnared in a recession."

The Times continues to insist the country is in recession, despite an utter absence of actual figures demonstrating that that's the case. The latest attempt is Saturday's lead story by the pessimistic duo of economics reporters, Peter Goodman and Michael Grynbaum, "20,000 Jobs Lost As U.S. Registers 4th Monthly Dip - Evidence of Recession - But Limited Scope of Job Cuts Give Hope of Mild Slump."

The American economy lost 20,000 jobs in April, the fourth consecutive month of decline, in what many economists took as powerful evidence that the United States is almost certainly now ensnared in a recession.

The story doesn't mention last week's reporting showing that Gross Domestic Product grew by 0.6 percent for the second consecutive quarter. Given that the traditional definition of a recession as two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth, this indicates the country is not in a recession, no matter what "many economists" say.

But the number of jobs reported lost by the Labor Department on Friday was significantly smaller than most analysts had predicted, and the unemployment rate nudged down to 5 percent, raising hopes that the economy may not suffer as severely as once feared.

"It strongly argues that this downturn will be mild and short- lived," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's "As long as businesses hold the line on their layoffs, the economy will weaken, but it won't unravel."

On Wall Street, investors bought into that thinking, bidding stocks up sharply in morning trading before pulling back in the afternoon, pushing the Dow Jones industrial average up 0.4 percent for the day, to close at 13,058.40, a new high for 2008.

But economists emphasized that a substantial pullback in consumer spending could yet force American companies to lay off hundreds of thousands of workers in coming months if business prospects do not improve swiftly.

Times Watch readers know that a Goodman story is never complete until it quotes the left-wing (or in Times-speak, "labor-oriented") think tank Economic Policy Institute:

"The punch line is that you don't have to lose your job to get pinched in a recession," said Jared Bernstein, senior economist at the labor-oriented Economic Policy Institute in Washington. "Understandably we focus on layoffs and job losses, but most people keep their jobs in a recession. People who held their jobs are losing ground both in terms of hours and hourly wages."