This story in today's NY Times is an exercise in creative writing. The headline is, "U.S. Consumer Prices Fall on Lower Energy Costs," which only reflects a small portion of what is reported. Discouraging news is paired with not so bad or good news, in an attempt to minimize the reality of the recession/depression, and the very unpleasant facts are squirreled away at the end.
Consumer prices are falling due to decreasing energy costs:
Energy prices dropped 2.9 percent, the most in more than a year. Gasoline prices posted the biggest decline — down 5.2 percent in May, the sharpest decline since December 2008.
Food prices were flat in May, down from a 0.2 percent rise in April. Falling prices for fruits and vegetables swamped rising prices for meat, cereals and dairy products.
Apparently we are supposed to be so excited about lower prices for fruits and vegetables that we don't notice that meat, cereal, and dairy costs are increasing. Or that wages are stagnant, so the lower prices aren't making a huge difference in people's wallets.
Halfway through the story we find the real meat:
In the report on jobless filings, the Labor Department said initial claims for jobless benefits rose by 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 472,000, the highest level in a month. Economists had expected claims would fall to a seasonally adjusted 450,000, according to Thomson Reuters.
The number of people continuing to claim benefits rose by 88,000 to 4.57 million. That does not include about 5.2 million people who receive extended benefits paid for by the federal government.
Adding to worries about the job market, the Labor Department said earlier this month that the economy generated only 41,000 private-sector jobs in May. That was down from 218,000 in April.
This kind of reporting is incredibly frustrating to read, and quite possibly designed to obscure the ugly realities of the employment situation:
More than 29 million Americans are still without work or forced into part-time work -- that's a real jobless rate of 16.6% (BLS U6). (Leo Hindery Jr.'s more precise estimate is 30.16 million for a jobless rate of 18.8 percent.) Nearly 7 million people have been jobless for over 26 weeks (the "long-term unemployed") -- more than at any time since the Great Depression. We still need more than 22 million new jobs to get us anywhere near full-employment.
There were many more stories in 2009 about the unemployed. Given that there are even more folks unemployed now, it's sad to note that the coverage has largely dried up. No wonder Congress doesn't seem to feel the urgency.
We need to push for the extended unemployments bill, and it sure would be nice to get some help to the folks who were never eligible for benefits but remain unemployed.
cross posted at MainSt/workingamerica.org