The Campaign Spot

Strange How Economic Coverage Is Getting More Optimistic Now

Earlier this morning on CNN, Gerri Willis, the network’s personal-finance editor, hosted a segment saying that some economists see a coming “rebound stronger than expected.” She cited the fact that stocks are up, housing activity has picked up, and layoffs were down.

Yes, both new and existing home sales were up in February, about five percent. Of course, January is traditionally the slowest month of the year for home sales, and the February new-home sales number Willis cited was an improvement – to the second worst ever. Comparing February 2008 to February 2009, it’s still a record drop.

Then she cited “job losses easing off their peak” – but this compares initial numbers against numbers that have been revised downward. We may find that March’s numbers were too optimistic:

August 2008: Initially 84,000, revised to 175,000

September 2008: Initially 159,000, revised to 321,000

October 2008: Initially 240,000, revised to 380,000

November 2008: Initially 533,000, revised to 597,000

December 2008: Initially 524,000, revised to 681,000

January 2009: Initially 598,000, revised to 655,000, revised a third time to 741,000 jobs lost

February 2009: Initially 651,000, not yet revised

March 2009: Initially 663,000

This is improvement?

April might be better, of course. Yet so far this month, FedEx has confirmed another 1,000 layoffs, Bombardier has announced 470 new layoffs, there’s another round at Caterpillar (remember when Obama was bragging the stimulus bill was going to prompt that company to rehire laid-off workers?), and 71 percent of the members of the Business Roundtable — CEOs of companies with 10 million employees combined — said they expected to cut workers over the next six months.

And that’s not counting layoffs from the defense cuts Secretary Gates announced yesterday.

To her credit, Willis mentioned skeptics. But the overall impression of the piece was that the economy is in turnaround, and the evidence just isn’t there yet.

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