Sunday, September 02, 2007

Write down 100 times "I will not make stuff up in order to pad my story"

I have more than once given Kyōdō News grief for reporting the damn near impossible as fact (as the far better blogger Jun Okumura has noticed).

However, today's failing marks go the Associated Press:

Japan unemployment rate improved to 3.6 percent in July; prices, production slipped
Associated Press

TOKYO -- The economy minister said Friday Japan's recovery was on solid track, brushing off data showing prices and production slipped despite improvement in the job market.

In data released Friday, Japan's unemployment rate dropped to 3.6 percent in July from 3.7 percent in June, better than the 3.7 percent expected by economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires and Nikkei.

The numbers suggest tightening in the labor market continues as baby boomers retire and are replaced by younger generations. That may mean wage increases, which would be a big plus for growth...
Oh, no it will not...not for the average worker.

If the oldest, highest-paid workers are retiring from their jobs, then the median and average wages and benefits must decrease--no matter how high or low the unemployment rate.

Oh, I suppose an employer could somehow think that the retirement of a worker means that everyone remaining on the company's employment rolls should get a piece of what was the retiree's former salary...

"Listen up folks, Tanaka retired last month, meaning that what would have been his salary is just sitting around, doing nothing. Can I see a show of hands of anyone who might be willing to take a share--we're running out of space in the bank account..."

Now if by contrast, labor market tightness leads to a competition for existing labor, such competition could push employers to raise wages and benefits--though the correlation between the unemployment rate and wage & benefit increases is probably weaker in Japan than in most industrialized countries.

Editor! Editor!

Later - Oooooh. In looking back over the posts at Global Talk 21, I see that Okumura-san has torn into my positive assessment of Norimitsu Onishi's article on the Abe visit with the descendant Judge Pal.



Jun Okumura said...

Thanks for the complements, MTC, but I think that it's really the difference between miso dengaku and chili con carne. Or geta and sneakers. As for the AP writer, I think that he probably meant to say something like:

The numbers suggest tightening in the labor market continues as baby boomers retire and are replaced by the younger generations, which are smaller in size. That would mean a shrinking labor supply that in turn may mean wage increases, which would be a big plus for growth...

Of course this positive effect on wages should be offset in whole or in part by the lower wages of new entries into the job market that you point out in your post. There is a certain measure of truth over the long run in my edited version of the paragraph, but again, the positive effects on growth will be offset, this time by the shrinking labor supply.

Moreover, the article links a short-term month-over-month change in unemployment rates to long-term demographic trends. There a slight possibility that you might be able to measure a relevant phenomenon in April-over-March, when new graduates enter the job market and many people retire. But you would need to do a comparative study of data covering several decades to be sure. The article, of course, is just another symptom of economic illiteracy.

For word verification, I've been asked to type "ourbm". I thought you'd like to know.

MTC said...

Dear Okumura-san:

We can all make stabs at what the writer wanted to say--but in the end, he/she did not say it.

But thank you for trying to spin straw into gold.

As for the word verification--I wonder how much the engineers tweak the random string generator so that it will not produce obscenities.