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Cheery Retail Reporting Is Unjustified

04/07/2012

“Confident Shoppers Give Economy A Boost” was the front page headline of the Minneapolis StarTribune on April 6th. Really? That is news!

The article, written by Thomas Lee, is so blatantly biased to a liberal perspective it was imperative I call it out.

Statement: “For the fourth consecutive month, major retail chains reported better-than-expected sales numbers, the latest sign that Americans are gaining confidence in the economic recovery and are ready to spend more.”

Facts: It is true that some stores, such as Macy’s and Target comp store sales are up over last year (6.1 percent 2011 v. 3 percent 2012 and 7.2 percent v. -2.4 percent 2012 respectively) – but this appears to be cherry-picking the numbers. Costco is flat (8 percent), The Limited and Saks are down (8 percent v. 13 percent and 6.4 percent v. 12.9 percent respectively). Review the big picture from Business Wire and one is hard-pressed to proclaim a trend for the better or worse.

Statement: The retail surge follows a string of positive news that suggests the economy is building momentum. Manufacturing orders are rising, and personal income is up. Even the beleaguered housing market has shown signs of life.

Facts: As reported by the New York Times (on the same day April 6th!), “Although signs pointed to a strengthening economy earlier this year, the jobs report on Friday came with a message: don’t get ahead of yourself. The country’s employers added a disappointing 120,000 jobs in March, about half the net gains posted in each of the preceding three months. The unemployment rate, which comes from a separate survey of households rather than employers, slipped to 8.2 percent, from 8.3 percent, as a smaller portion of the population looked for work.” Ugh! Throw gas prices edging near $4 per gallon, worrisome economic news in Europe and a bitter political landscape and it is difficult for consumers to feel upbeat about spending money.

Statement: American payrolls grew by 227,000 in February, capping the best six-month streak of job growth since 2006. A report Friday is expected to show that 205,000 new jobs were created in March, according to a survey of economists by Bloomberg News.

Facts: Oops! See facts above. By most accounting methods 120,000 jobs against a projected 205,000 jobs is not only a miss of over 30 percent but also illustrates how unpredictable the alleged economic recovery really is.

Finally Mr. Lee’s assessment is completely devoid of any analysis of employment figures among retailers. We believe that retailers hiring is based upon current and projected sales performance against plans. Big miss here for Mr. Lee’s cheery perspective. According to Bloomberg News (also on April 6th), “The March data showed a 34,000 decrease in retail employment, the biggest decline since October 2009. A milder winter may have limited hiring as workers were added to payrolls in previous three months at the expense of March. The Labor Department said that the number of people unable to work due to inclement weather was 360,000 below average from December through February.”

In the New York Times article the most telling statement is, “Economists suggested that the trend among employers to wring more work from fewer people continued to be a hallmark of this recovery.”

Considering the timing of Lee’s article simultaneous to less cheery news being reported on the same day by The New York Times and Bloomberg one could easily draw the conclusion the intention of Lee’s article was purely to provide preemptive cover for the less than great news that Lee should have been reporting on.

It’s unfortunate that so many in the media see the regular folks of America as dolts. It’s unfortunate for the media that the fact is that the majority of Americans are not dolts and are seeing right through the medias bias.

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