Big bad numbers
Lots of bad numbers flying around at the moment. Timothy Prickett Morgan writes (my emphasis):
According to the bureau’s sampling and calculations done on that sampled data, America shed 598,000 non-farm jobs in January, worse than expected and boosting the unemployment rate to 7.6 per cent. Much has been made in the press about this being the highest number of jobs lost in 34 years. But no one in the press points out that to make such a comparison fairly you need to adjust the number of jobs lost against the size of the labour pool, which is much larger in the States than it was 34 years ago.
Similarly, business news organizations are always talking about how much the Dow Jones Industrial Average or the Financial Times Stock Exchange index drops by X or Y points, the most since Z, and they do not adjust that drop against the size of the index at the time, I guess to make a 300-point drop sound more dramatic than it really is. As an index or a labour pool grows, you would expect swings to be bigger in number. The point is this: It isn’t as bad as it sounds, even though it is bad.
Really? Hmmm… I’m sick of the TV news too.
There’s a point where, because we already know that things are bad, trying to quantify it is moot. We passed that point.