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May 31, 2005


Unfortunately, Okrent came up with some rather weak stuff and promptly quit. It's unfortunate, because I know he has better instances. Hell, in one of the columns he and Krugman discussed, there's a perfect example of Krugman selectively using numbers, just as Okrent alleged. Krugman pointed to the 2002 Economic Report of the President and cited their "138 million" 2004 employment figure, noting that it would take years at current growth to reach their projection of full employment.

But when economists talk about "full employment", they're referring to the unemployment rate. And the corresponding UR in that report was 5.2%. At the time he wrote that article, the actual UR was only 5.5%.

What's more, he 1) compared job growth in '04 with job growth in '00....the top of the economic cycle and the bubble. Hardly a good baseline. And though he also compared it to '94, he neglected to include any mention of the unemployment rate in '04, which was almost a full point higher than in '04. That's a pretty relevant statistic when you're talking about the quality of the job market, don't you think?

The point Okrent made was not that Krugman lied, but that he was selective and misleading in his punditry. (quick: think of one time that Krugman criticized Democrats in the past few years!) Okrent's point can be argued successfully...though, apparently, not by Daniel Okrent.

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