Strong jobs data set stage for rate hike

By Lindsay Ireland

Link to story: bit.ly/cjsstatmt

(At left: Job gains show a multimodal distribution, with a possible outlier in Nov. 2014. Over the past year, this rate has remained fairly steady, with few dips/hikes.
At right: Unemployment rate is right-skewed, and shows a negative relationship between the passing of time and the corresponding unemployment rate.)

la-fi-g-1106-us-jobs-20151106

This story by Don Lee of the Los Angeles Times talks about the effects of Friday’s employment report, released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which reports national data on joblessness rates during the month of October. The author uses this data, in conjunction with data from previous years as well as interviews with a number of economists, to provide a multidimensional portrayal of this data.

Lee talks about the drop in unemployment rates, and ties in a current news topic of interest – the upcoming presidential election – to pique readers’ interests when he says, “Hiring and wages surged last month as the unemployment rate dropped to five percent, a symbolic threshold with potential significance both for the economy and the 2016 election.” This kind of lede grabs the reader’s attention because it uses hard, factual data to make a claim about a topic that is experiencing high-volume coverage in today’s news.

He expands on the future effects of these numbers later in the story, particularly when he mentions the Federal Reserve. By providing speculation on the real-world effects on employees when he writes, “Signs of a strong U.S. labor market may prod the Federal Reserve next month to make its first rate hike in nearly a decade,” he helps readers understand how a decreases in joblessness could affect their interest rates. He also mentions the Federal Reserve’s qualms about increasing their rates: “Fed officials don’t want to raise interest rates too early, thereby slowing the economy and potentially leaving large numbers of people unemployed.” Without these comments, many readers may have been left wondering, “How does this affect me?”

While Lee mentions possible interest rates increases as a result of these rising numbers, he also provides quotes from economists like Michelle Meyer, an economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, who said, “Friday’s ‘blowout’ employment report is ‘not a trend we’re expecting to continue.’” From a journalistic perspective, it is important the author get real-world commentary on the data, as numbers are not always what they seem. He also talks about the analysts’ predictions before the report was released, saying that the growth rate was far above that which was predicted. This shows economists’ skepticism about the future of the job market.

Throughout the story, he pulls in past data to provide context for the rates in Friday’s report. One example of this is when he says, “The last time the jobless figure was this low (5%) was in the spring of 2008.” He also talks about what the change in rates could do for California’s upcoming unemployment report, which will be released in two weeks. As this is an L.A. Times article, it is important to tie in your home state to keep readers interested.

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