The Washington Post and the New York Times showed a stark contrast in their coverage of jobs reports in 2016 (under then-President Obama) and 2018 (under President Trump). In 2016, the media trumpeted the addition of 156,000 jobs in September 2016 as a “steady pace of hiring” and a good sign for “the American jobs machine,” downplaying their coverage of the numbers’ failure to meet economists’ expectations.
In September 2016, the economy added 156,000 new jobs in what the Washington Post called a “steady pace of hiring.” The New York Times similarly praised the September 2016 jobs report, saying it showed “the American jobs machine keeps chugging.”
However, neither paper seemed to mind that the September 2016 report fell short of economists’ expectations. The Times and The Post barely touched on this fact in their coverage, only mentioning it in a brief aside.
In the fifth paragraph of The New York Times’ article on the September 2016 jobs report: “Before the report was released, economists on Wall Street looked for the economy to add 172,000 jobs in September. Revisions for July and August showed that 7,000 fewer jobs were created in those months than the Labor Department first estimated.”
Below-expectations didn’t show up until the eight paragraph of the Washington Post’s article on the September 2016 jobs report: “The pace of job creation in September was slightly below market expectations, but some economists said Friday morning that the data does little to change the Federal Reserve’s calculus about a potential interest rate hike in December.”
Flash forward to 2018, when The Washington Post and The New York Times spotlighted failed expectations in their coverage of the July 2018 jobs report, which added a similar 157,000 jobs.
The economy added a 157,000 jobs in July 2018, similar to the gains in September 2016. Despite the similar jobs figures in July 2018 and September 2016, the media coverage showed a clear contrast.
In a change of tune since 2016, these same outlets made failed expectations a central point of their coverage and promotion of July’s job numbers. The Washington Post’s Heather Long even made sure to include in her headline that the figure was “slightly below expectations.” The New York Times tweeted its article by Nelson D. Schwartz and Ben Casselman with the spotlight on jobs numbers “below analysts’ expectations.”
Reprinted with author’s permission from Accuracy in Media