Politics

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
jobs, politics, stats



An Exploration Into How Politicians Make Up Numbers; The Mythical 74,000 Jobs Lost By FAA Shutdown

from the who-did-what-now? dept

A few years ago, we wrote about how the totally bogus job-loss and dollar-loss figures due to "piracy" made their way into the press and policy circles. Basically, someone made a random, unsourced claim once, years ago, and it got twisted and exaggerated as fact -- with different groups citing each other to give it the heft of "as said by [insert distinguished institution here]." The same thing happens in politics all the time.

Trails point us to a similar analysis of the discussion over the recent FAA shutdown (which finally ended). If you read the press reports, you probably saw claims that 74,000 people lost jobs because of the shutdown. It was pretty much everywhere (here are just a few examples). Unfortunately, that number is totally and completely bogus.
The 70,000 figure entered the public sphere when the FAA turned to Associated General Contractors of America, a construction industry group, to calculate the economic impact of the FAA funding impasse. The FAA had halted more than 200 construction projects totaling $2.5 billion.

AGC dusted off the 3-year-old study conducted by Fuller. His research, designed to show the "multiplier effect" of the president's stimulus package, concluded in early 2009 that $1 billion in nonresidential construction created or supported 28,500 jobs and added $3.4 billion to the Gross Domestic Product.

An AGC economist applied Fuller's formula to the FAA's $2.5 billion construction halt and came to the conclusion that it would put "24,000 construction workers out of work." Another 11,000 workers in related businesses "are also affected," the AGC said, and "as many as 35,000 jobs will be undermined in the broader economy, from the lunch wagon near the job site to the truck dealership across town."
Now that does add up to 70,000 workers (plus the 4,000 directly furloughed by the FAA to get 74,000). Except... of course, that 46,000 of those jobs weren't actually lost. They were just impacted. The guy who actually did the study admits that those other 46,000 jobs were not construction workers out of work, but people like "drug store clerks and restaurant waitresses, who might see 'a tiny bit less revenue flow.'"

But that didn't stop the press or the politicians. In fact, many of them quickly started inflating the already massively inflated 74,000 even higher:
"Seventy-five thousand people are now over the precipice," Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, said at a Wednesday news conference.

"We have 80,000 jobs at least on the line," said Majority Leader Harry Reid at one briefing Tuesday.

[...]

On Wednesday, the AFL-CIO Executive Council got into the action. In a news release, it said House Republicans "jeopardized 90,000 airport construction jobs." Two sentences later, it went for the brass ring: "Congress must (act) to preserve almost 100,000 American jobs," it said.
That this is probably more than three times the actual number... well, why let facts get in the way. And people wonder why no one trusts the AFL-CIO any more...

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Aug 2011 @ 8:40am

    Re: Re:

    You missed the point - the qualifying term was lost somewhere along the line, and the politicians are only repeating what they have been told by staff members who likely got the numbers from someone who got the numbers from someone who forgot to include the qualifier in there.

    Blaming the elected officials is easy, like shooting fish in a barrel when you have no barrel and you just tape the fish on the end of the gun. But it doesn't explain how they got there, it is only complaining about the result.

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