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September 11, 2009

Two ways to look at job losses

Time Magazine blogger Justin Fox took a wonderful jab at a chart that Nancy Pelosi's office posted about the current recession. The Pelosi chart below makes it look like the sky is falling, but it looks at the data in terms of total job losses.

Justin did a great job of creating a different, perhaps more realistic, comparison of the current recession to past recessions by looking at job losses as a percent decline.

What an incredible difference if you just look at the data slightly differently.

It's kind of scary that there isn't someone in Pelosi's office that would know to at least consider looking at the data as a percent decline. This spins the data in a more positive light, or maybe I should say, a less negative light.

Read Justin's full post here.


  1. I’m more cynical that you Andy. Surely Ms. Pelosi’s staff is not that ignorant. More likely they are using clever deception. Politicians have been lying with statistics for a long time.

    Check out some of the books on the lying with statistics. Innumeracy is a problem as John Allen Paulos pointed out in his book Innumeracy.

    Here’s a short list of resources:

    1.Innumeracy: A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper, by John Allen Paulos
    2.How to Lie with Statistics by Darrell Huff
    3.How to Lie with Charts by Gerald Everett Jones
    4.Damned Lies and Statistics: Untangling Numbers from the Media, Politicians, and Activists by Joel Best

  2. Clever deception in politics. I can't believe that would happen in our government these days. :-)