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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press Will the Wall Street Journal Give Ed Lazear Space to Correct His Piece About Falling Work Hours?

Will the Wall Street Journal Give Ed Lazear Space to Correct His Piece About Falling Work Hours?

Wednesday, 16 April 2014 05:28

Last month the WSJ ran a column by Ed Lazear, a Stanford economics professor and former chief economist to President Bush, which noted the decline in the length of the average workweek between the fall and the most recent data from February. The piece noted that if labor demand was measured in hours, we had lost the equivalent of 100,000 jobs over the prior six months. He discussed possible causes for this decline and highlighted the incentives created by the Affordable Care Act.

While some of us at the time questioned the plausibility of this story and noted the likely effect of the weather on reducing workweeks in January and February, we got the question resolved when the March data was released this month. The entire decline in average hours was reversed. The question is whether the WSJ will allow Mr. Lazear a follow-up piece to point out that his earlier concerns about the Affordable Care Act leading to a reduction in the length of the average workweek had apparently been wrong.

avg. hours

                                    Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Comments (8)Add Comment
That would open the floodgates
written by Jennifer, April 16, 2014 7:15
To be fair to the Wall Street Journal if they had people come back to admit they were wrong everytime they were wrong . . . there would not be a lot a room for anything else.
written by Squeezed Turnip, April 16, 2014 7:51
[ sarcasm] Ed Lazear is never wrong. The data is obviously skewed. By illegal immigrants, probably. And skyrocketing inflation, most likely. Plus, abortions, I tell you! [ / sarcasm] Let's face it. Ed Lazear (and many others) are rhetoricians in economist's clothing.
written by Larry Signor, April 16, 2014 7:57
"...a Standford economics professor..." who does not understand the externalities unique to hourly workers as opposed to salaried workers. Imagine that...
Can do!
written by Canned Doo-doo, April 16, 2014 8:00
Ed Lazear can do economic analysis (else how to get a professorship at Stanford (other than knowing the right people)) but he doesn't. It's the usual reason why: just look who butters his bread.
written by djb, April 16, 2014 8:34
nope they won't because they are not interested in what is the truth

they only want to continue to to advance the cause of redistributing wealth to the already wealthy

the truth is that obamacare like health solutions are totally successful in other countries
Did Dean use a graph incorrectly?
written by Nick, April 16, 2014 2:13
I think the graph is misleading - it really only shows a volatile recovery from the recession. It's hard to get a sense that your (correct) argument is backed by data. It's unfortunate, too, because the argument would be greatly strengthened by tidbits from the BLS like this:

Real average weekly earnings rose 0.6 percent over the month [of March 2014] due to the decrease in real average hourly earnings being more than offset by a 0.9 percent increase in the average workweek.

And links to your citations! http://www.bls.gov/news.release/realer.nr0.htm It's annoying to hunt through BLS to get a sense of the data because a writer I broadly trust appears to have goofed, or unclearly phrased an argument.

I know it's a blog, but this seems a bit shoddy.
the volatile recovery from the recession was the point
written by Dean, April 16, 2014 6:17

the point was that Lazear was making a big deal out of what was just a down tick in average weekly hours. He should have recognized that this was nothing. I can't provide the direct link to the data because it doesn't connect, although this link http://www.bls.gov/webapps/legacy/cesbtab2.htm will get you there.
Short answer: No
written by Mike, April 17, 2014 10:57
Longer answer is "No. The policy of the the WSJ corrections is that they don't ever run on for editorial or op-ed items unless legal action is threatened. For news articles where the error is egregious, a weak, out-of-context correction may appear but must not appear before the article has been entirely dropped from readers' attention. Usually this will take a month or three."

For a recent-ish story of WSJ op-ed error and requested correction by an op-ed contributor read the CJR piece, "A columnist recants but the WSJ Edit Page won't hear it"


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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.