Bad European Growth Numbers in the NYT

Newspapers should try to report economic data in ways that are clear to their readers. That should not be a debatable point.

The NYT badly failed in this task in an article on European economic growth. The headline told readers that "Economy Grows Nearly 1% in Europe." Before anyone bemoans poor European growth, it is important to realize that the 1.0 percent is a quarterly growth rate. In other words, Europe's economy grew by close to 1.0 percent in the second quarter of the year. This translates into close to a 4.0 percent annual rate.

In the United States, growth is always reported as an annual rate. There is absolutely no excuse for a reporter (or an editor) not taking the 2 seconds needed to convert a quarterly rate into an annual rate. This is about as simple as it gets; the Times should not be reporting economic data in ways that might unnecessarily mislead readers.

--Dean Baker

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