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Jobs -- Now you See Them, Now You Don't

Reported by Judy - October 8, 2004 -

The Labor Department's release today (Oct. 8) of jobs data for the month of September dominated the first hour of Fox News Live, as Fox reporters joined a Bush administration official in putting the best face on disappointing numbers.

The department reported 96,000 jobs were created last month, which Fox Business editor Neil Cavuto admitted was less than the 150,000 figure Wall Street had expected. Furthermore, July and August jobs numbers were revised downward, so that jobs we thought were created during the summer actually were never there. The jobless rate remained at 5.4 percent.

While Cavuto admitted the numbers were a disappointment, business reporter Dagen McDowell blamed the four hurricanes in Florida for the poorer-than-expected numbers. Plausible, but you would think Wall Street would have thought of that when they set their expectations. And since one of those four hurricanes actually hit the state in August (not September) its effects should already have been tallied in the August numbers.

In another appearance during the hour, Cavuto interviewed Commerce Secretary Don Evans about the jobless numbers. Cavuto did not explain why he chose Evans rather than Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, whose department released the numbers. The answer may lie, however, in the way Evans greeted Cavuto: "Always good to be with you, pal." No one from the John Kerry campaign was interviewed.

Evans repeated the long-standing preference of the Bush administration for using the household survey to estimate job creation, rather than the payroll survey. Under the Bush standard, Bush has now created 2 million jobs, so John Kerry can't claim that Bush is the first president to lose jobs since Herbert Hoover. He added that the household survey shows more Americans are working than ever before.

Cavuto signaled his disappointment with that answer, saying that the Democrats will say there are more Americans than ever before. Evans went back to his argument about the household survey being more accurate and noted that the job creation numbers for the period March 2003 to March 2004 showed 200,000 more jobs were created than first estimated. Translation: We were better off than we thought we were all along and if we wait another year, we'll find out how good we've really got it right now.

Cavuto did not seem to satisfied with that answer either and asked Evans what George Bush is going to say in the debate when Kery confronts him with the loss of jobs. Evans said he will point to the strong economy, high productivity, increases in disposable income, and the claim that "the worst thing you can do if you want to destroy jobs is to raise taxes on the American people."

Cavuto seemed to be sending a message to the Bush campaign: You need to come up with a better answer for these numbers by tonight or Bush is going to lose this debate, too.