Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Missing in plain sight - unemployment story

I have a class section and seminar (that I've done for the American Copy Editors Society) called "missing in plain sight."

I keep coming back to these because with the decimation of copy desks, I'm seeing more cases. So let's see how quickly you can pick out what's missing in this story - and figure out why a copy editor seemingly missed it:

South Carolina’s economy got an early Christmas present on Tuesday, as the unemployment rate dropped under 10 percent for the first time since April. The plunge came as retailers beefed up sales staff for an unexpectedly good holiday shopping season and others dropped out of the job search.

   More strikingly, the drop to 9.9 percent from October to November was the largest monthly drop in the 35 years that statistics have been kept in the state, according to a report from the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce released Tuesday. The national unemployment rate also saw a significant decrease, to 8.6 percent in November from 9 percent in October.

   “This is truly good news for South Carolina, and surprising,” said Doug Wood- ward, an economist with the University of South Carolina. “We’ll take it.”

   Overall, nonfarm employment grew by 15,000 jobs from October to November and is up nearly 31,000 from a year ago – the largest increase for the same time period since 2006.

   Folks found 7,100 jobs in retail and 6,600 in professional and business services. Manufacturing, which has been a bright spot for the state, continued its climb, adding 900 jobs between October and November.

   The retail spike was fueled in part by people believing that the economy both in South Carolina and nationally is on the mend.

   “As the economy begins to rebound, they are less worried about being laid off” and more willing to spend, said USC economist Joey Von Nessen.

   Deedra Senter, co-owner of the Learning Express toy stores in Lexington and Irmo, is seeing that trend first hand. After a flat November, December sales are up 20 percent over last December and she and co-owner Paige Watson had to order additional stock.

   “We’ve had an unexpectedly good holiday season,” Senter said. “There have been some scary times this year.”

   The owners wanted to beef up their staff of 13 but couldn’t find workers with the right experience. So they have their present staff working overtime.

   “Our staff has to be very customer-oriented and experts in toys,” Senter said. “We put ads on Craigslist but had people not show up. It worked out great for our girls because they are getting time and a half.”

   Woodward and Von Nessen earlier this month declared that the state’s economy for 2012 was “looking pretty good” and predicted substantial job growth in the coming year – most in the manufacturing sector. However, in their annual economic outlook, the Darla Moore School of Business economists predicted the unemployment would remain flat as more people entered the workforce and began looking for work in a brightening job market.

   So Tuesday’s report was a surprise.

   “The good news is the major reason (for the drop) has been due to actual employment gains rather than just drops in the labor force,” Von Nessen said.

   Although the labor force did drop by 4,750 from October to November to 2.17 million, meaning some have dropped out of the job search.

   Gov. Nikki Haley and workforce executive director Abraham Turner issued statements praising S.C. businesses for ramping up employment and predicted more gains to come.

   “When we took office, the unemployment rate was 10.5 percent,” Haley said in a release. “To see it drop to 9.9 percent is a good way to end the year. We continue to have challenges, but we are committed to doing all we can to put South Carolinians back to work.”

   Lexington County once again had the lowest unemployment rate in the state, dropping to 7 percent from 7.5 percent. Orangeburg County and Calhoun County were the only two counties in the state to have unemployment rise.

   The jobless rate improved dramatically in South Carolina in November, dropping by the largest amount since the state began tracking the rate in 1976, as more people landed jobs. Two counties in the state saw an increase in unemployment, but most improved in November from October:

   Lexington: 7% from 7.5%

   Richland: 8% from 8.8%

   Kershaw: 8.6% from 9.1%

   Newberry: 9.2% from 9.6%

   Fairfield: 10.8% from 11.4%

   Calhoun: 14.1% from 12%

   Orangeburg: 15.6% from 14.9%

   SOURCE: S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce 

Did you ask yourself this: They're making such a big deal of this being the largest month-to-month drop, so what exactly was the unemployment rate last month? (It's not in the story or the graphic.) It was 10.5 percent.

Oops. Not sure why a desk missed that.

(The penultimate graf references that figure, but only from when the governor took office nine months earlier. The rate had actually gone higher than that in the interim - to 10.9 percent in September, for instance.)

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At 12/29/11, 6:57 PM, Blogger Ted King said...

I don't believe anyone with knowledge of the english language or concern for the vehicle edited this story at all.

At 12/30/11, 5:00 PM, Blogger Doug said...

Yeah, there are multiple problems, starting with the lede: "The plunge came as retailers beefed up sales staff for an unexpectedly good holiday shopping season and others dropped out of the job search." (Who are "others"? Other retailers? Clearer phrasing is possible.)

And then there's that non-sentence later: "Although the labor force did drop by 4,750 from October to November to 2.17 million, meaning some have dropped out of the job search."

And there are numerous brevity opportunities.

When there's one problem, there usually are several. But I wanted to concentrate on the missing in plain sight, which should have been most obvious and is the least excusable for a copy desk to let through.

Hope all's well on the West Coast.



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