Patterico's Pontifications

12/2/2009

Reuters: Losing Slower = Winning

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 6:40 pm



(Note: The following anecdote may be fictional. — Mgmt.)

My kid just gave me his report card. “My grades improved this semester!” he said. “Wow, that’s great!” I said. Then I opened up the report card. “Wait a minute, son,” I said. This is a C+ average. Last semester, your average was a B. Your grades are actually getting worse.” “No, dad,” he said. “The semester before that, my average was an A. My grades aren’t falling as fast as they were falling before!”

In unrelated news, JVW passes along a Reuters story about our “improving” labor market, titled U.S. labor market marks slight improvement in Nov:

The U.S. labor market improved in November . . .

Really? That’s great!

with the number of jobs lost in the private sector falling again . . .

Whaa?

. . . and the number of planned layoffs also easing, separate reports showed on Wednesday.

The U.S. government is set to report on Friday data for both private and public employment, which is also expected to show the number of job losses falling, though unemployment is still seen above 10 percent.

U.S. private employers shed 169,000 jobs in November, fewer than the 195,000 jobs lost in October, according to a report on Wednesday by ADP Employer Services, jointly developed with Macroeconomic Advisers LLC.

So we’re losing — but more slowly. Which means we’re winning.

Back to my kid: I asked him what he wants to be when he grows up. He said: a Reuters reporter.

If his grades continue to improve, I think he just might qualify.

26 Responses to “Reuters: Losing Slower = Winning”

  1. We have a saying in surgery.

    “Bleeding always stops.”

    The patient may not be alive but that is another matter.

    I actually heard this story from a professor.

    He was assisting a famous professor of surgery who was famous for very radical cancer surgery. The professor was blasting this pelvic cancer out of a female patient when the rate of blood loss got too great and her heart stopped.

    My professor, who was the junior resident at the time, began to apply heart massage to the patient. The professor, without looking up, said, “I don’t know what you’re doing there but stop it. It’s making it bleed more.”

    That’s a true story.

    Maybe someone should stop the CPR on Reuters.

    MIke K (2cf494)

  2. Anyone who lives & dies by statistics has their own tricks. Almost anything can be given a positive spin.

    In the PD during the days of Management by Objectives (MBO) when everything was charted & graphed, we celebrated that “crime is increasing at a decreasing rate.” Since many of the brass didn’t understand simple statistics, some of them bought it.

    ManlyDad (060305)

  3. Mike K, I too was thinking of a surgical analogy to what Reuters reported. Imagine a doctor coming out of the ER room and telling anxious family members, “Your dad is getting better; the first hour he was in he lost three pints of blood, but the second hour he only lost two and two-thirds pints.” Somehow I don’t think that would necessarily be considered much of an improvement.

    JVW (0fe413)

  4. And Patterico, we knew that you were using a phony anecdote in the post. Only Barack Obama is crass enough to use his daughter’s actual report card to make a political point.

    JVW (0fe413)

  5. Here is perhaps a better link for Obama’s political use of his daughter’s academic performance, a matter which ought to be none of our business.

    JVW (0fe413)

  6. We’re not as negative as we used to be.

    I fall and hit my head less often.

    I only drink & drive every other day now.

    Icy Texan (b8ff91)

  7. Perhaps the reporter had covered government and economics first, and grew accustomed to reporting savings that were actually lowered rates of increased spending.

    simon kenton (3d943d)

  8. Hopefully your kid knows when to turn it on and off. Reuters Reporters will gladly swallow that kind of spin while a Democrat is in office, but never under a GOP POTUS.

    Sean P (579fd6)

  9. Icy Texan, you’re a bit off. Our decline is decelerating. Think limits. Think parabolae (which is different from hyperbolae). With a limit of zero (jobs), as you approach that limit but never reach it, you approach more slowly. But you keep approaching.

    And this is the parabolic improvement. We are approaching the zero-jobs limit more slowly.

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  10. Tau Zero?

    Icy Texan (b8ff91)

  11. Heh, I taught myself Calc II and Stats in college but I lost it all. So I referenced my memory of trig instead. I cannot say anything one way or the other on Tau. 😛 But I do remember a heavy usage of Sigma and Psi.

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  12. #9 – John Hitchcock
    Reference is, of course, to the novel “Tau Zero” by SF Grand Master, Poul Anderson. Your parabolae reference (as you approach that limit but never reach it, you approach more slowly. But you keep approaching) made me think of it.

    Of course in the novel — perhaps as it shall be under the current administration — things go horribly wrong. There you approach the limit more quickly, while relative time slows. Sort of how the next three years are going to be.

    Icy Texan (b8ff91)

  13. Zing!

    Leviticus (30ac20)

  14. TBH, when I saw someone commented on this thread, I hadn’t seen the thread yet. I automatically thought it was another Cyrus thread.

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  15. . . . and the number of planned layoffs also easing, separate reports showed on Wednesday.

    Yeah, that’s because there’s no one else left to fire without completely shutting the business down.

    Another Chris (2d8013)

  16. Hi all, but excuse me, ADP is used as a reference reflecting job losses. ADP has missed there projections for 14 months straight. Concidence? NO, ADP”s major stock holder ( and founder, me thinks) is none other than NJ Senator D- Frank “Torchies Boy” Lautenberg. I wonder if he would somehow have influenced ADP’s projections? nau, he’s a Senator.

    Leonard Van Noord (996c34)

  17. “So we’re losing — but more slowly. Which means we’re winning.”

    Hooray for inflexion points!

    imdw (c5488f)

  18. Come on, this is Washingtonspeak, where slowing the rate of budget growth is called a cut.

    Some chump (8087d5)

  19. Let’s look at it from the other angle, would we consider the labor market to be worsening if we saw a 200K job gain one month and then only 100K the next?

    [note: fished from spam filter. –Stashiu]

    imdw (b7a66a)

  20. A decrease in the rate at which things are getting worse is an improvement, in the same way that if you are barrelling towards a cliff, a decrease in the rate at which you are so barrelling is an improvement.

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  21. My pet journo peeve…
    When they describe something as being “(insert whole number here) times less…” as in “3 times less”.

    AD - RtR/OS! (2eab1e)

  22. “A decrease in the rate at which things are getting worse is an improvement, in the same way that if you are barrelling towards a cliff, a decrease in the rate at which you are so barrelling is an improvement.”

    So if you’re going to wards a cliff, and you apply the brakes, expect someone to bitch until you stop.

    imdw (490521)

  23. Oh, there is no doubt that imdw will continue to bitch. None whatsoever.

    JD (4a5c67)

  24. He’d complain if they hung him with a new rope.

    AD - RtR/OS! (2eab1e)

  25. That was incredibly racist, AD.

    JD (4a5c67)

  26. Well, I can’t help it if it was an accurate observation.

    AD - RtR/OS! (2eab1e)


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