Reuters reported this weekend, "President George W. Bush on Saturday said the U.S. job market was the best in years, as he pushed an election-year effort to convince skeptical Americans that the economy is thriving."
Rival news agency, the Associated Press simultaneously deployed this missive: "Consumer confidence sank to a seven-month low as sticker shock from rising gasoline prices made Americans anxious about the economy's prospects and the strain on their own budgets. The RBC CASH Index, based on results from the international polling firm Ipsos, showed confidence at 67.1 in early May. That marked a big deterioration from 89.4 in April."
What's stunningly wrong is the president is flogging his economic prowess to a public that simply isn't buying. Job growth used to be the sine qua non of a confident consumer. Just as many of the old rules (church and state, science and politics, etc.) seem not to apply in Bush's Washington, this dichotomy makes one wonder whether the administration is redacting the truth on economic data.
Two months ago, the wildly popular liberal blog "Daily Kos" accused the administration of "statistical chicanery" by soft-pedaling the number of workers who have dropped out of the labor market. The blog claimedby playing actuarial hide-and-seek with "seasonal adjustments" to the unemployment figures and discounting the not in labor force or NILF number (the number of persons who drop out of the workforce)the Labor Department painted an employment report that was decidedly more rosy than it deserved.
Most news reports attribute consumers' pessimistic views, however, to more palpable evidence, such as high gas prices, and an increasingly unaffordable stag-flated real-estate market (stagnant sales, inflated price tags).
To that I would add a couple of more reasons not widely reported elsewhere. Despite real or claimed job growth, consumers are starting to realize the type of jobs being created fail to match up to Americans' expectations. That is to say, just as today's car is not your father's Chevrolet, today's job is not his job either. We're moving closer and closer to a freelance economy.
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