Again: misleading information from the Georgia Department of Labor on unemployment

In my City Talk column coming up on Sunday, I consider the broader challenges facing the housing market, still, and I mention along the way some of the grim statewide employment data that was released today by the Georgia Department of Labor. (The column starts with the good news of a couple of restaurant openings.)

I’ve written previously (here and here) about misleading information in the press releases that the agency has put out under Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler. In the past, the misleading statements have had to do with conflating seasonally adjusted data with data that has not been seasonally adjusted. Sadly, the media in the state has not seen through these ham-handed rhetorical ploys.

In today’s press release, the Georgia Department of Labor omits from the summary the one statistic that is the most important as far as I’m concerned: the number of jobs in the state this year compared to last year. There’s mention of an increase in jobs from July to August, but that’s a typical pattern because schools hire all sorts of temporary or seasonal employees.

The grim reality is in the data after the narrative — and the numbers alone are easily available on the DOL website: in August 2011 Georgia had 33,900 fewer jobs than in August 2010.

Advice to my fellow journalists: Don’t just read the press releases. Look at the hard data that is released at the same time. And educate yourselves about the seasonal trends in employment.