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Can we ban the word 'shed' from jobs reports, already?

Indulge me, please, while I rant about my new least favorite word: shed.

Not as in dog hair. As in jobs. As in, "The economy shed (fill in the blank) jobs last month."

Brace yourself for another spate of shedding when the next unemployment report is released.

I don't know how shed became the go-to journalistic verb to describe job loss, but I think my profession should stop this usage. Shedding implies something unnecessary or unwanted.

"To eject, slough off, or lose as part of the normal processes of life," my Merriam-Webster's instructs. "To rid oneself of temporarily or permanently as superfluous or unwanted."

What a gruesome image when it comes to people losing jobs.

Shedding is bad. Soldiers shed blood. Snakes shed skin. Children shed tears. Infected people shed viruses. Shedding light is, I admit, good. God sheds His grace on thee. But that's about it.

How did shedding migrate from shaggy dogs to job loss? The Oxford English Dictionary cites The Economist of March 1975, "the industry shed about 100,000 of its workforce." In the last three months alone, a computer search of news reports shows 2,116 uses of the term in connection with jobs, from Ireland to Fiji.

You can imagine how the term took hold. Financial writers became bored with saying the economy lost jobs. Shed is evocative. Shed worked for copy editors trying to cram the news into a headline only a few columns wide.

But what might have been compactly colorful is now unnecessarily insensitive -- not to mention trite. Lost is a better four-letter word.

Even the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the official tallier of the nation's joblessness, stoops to shed.

"There is not a policy on when it's used," said Stacey Standish of the BLS. "We try to use those types of descriptive words consistently, but there's no set time on when we use certain words."

How about never? Perhaps shed does not rise to the level of an executive order, but if I were the head of the BLS, or secretary of labor, I'd put a stop to it. If the government can't do a better job of stemming job losses, at least it could describe the disappointing results in a more sensitive way.

By Ruth Marcus  | September 2, 2010; 10:48 AM ET
Categories:  Marcus  | Tags:  Ruth Marcus  
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The Washington Post should report the job losses as it was a Republican President.

"Republican President and his policies caused more job losses for the past week. Based on his policies, there is no end in sight."

Change the Republican to Obama and it will be a truthful statement of fact.

Posted by: sales7 | September 2, 2010 11:06 AM | Report abuse

I think shedding is actually an appropriate term.

America is migrating, painfully so, away from being an agro-industrial country to a new breed of INFORMATION country. In doing so we will shed the crap out of blue collar and menial jobs and bring ourselves into the future.

I agree it's harsh to tell somebody to "learn to use a computer" but if I had to learn to use a lathe in a machine shop or learn to lay tile to earn a living, guess what I would be doing?

Posted by: mrpleco | September 2, 2010 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Ms. Marcus should proof her own article. She decries using shed because "Shedding implies something unnecessary or unwanted". She then gives examples that contradict herself (shedding blood, tears, light, grace) and demonstrates "shedding jobs" IS a proper usage.

She should go back to journalism school or ask for a refund.

Posted by: kitchendragon50 | September 2, 2010 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Alternatively you could actually look at the data and realize that the US has ADDED private sector jobs every month from January through July 2010, i.e. seven straight months and eight of the last nine. This after losing jobs for 22 straight months beginning in January 2008. The private sector job gains every month in 2010 is the best kept secret of the year.

Posted by: stichmo | September 2, 2010 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Yes that is a word that should be reserved for the woodshed where corporate America should be taken... instead of trying to stage another BS market...

Posted by: Wildthing1 | September 2, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse

While private sector jobs have been added over last 7 months, they are still insufficient to be a net positive.

"About a year into the recovery, the U.S. economy still isn't creating the roughly 150,000 to 200,000 private sector jobs per month needed to reduce unemployment and help the recovery ascend to a self-sustaining status."
See full article from DailyFinance:

Posted by: kitchendragon50 | September 2, 2010 2:08 PM | Report abuse

In a particularly prescient Monty Python sketch, Arthur "Two Sheds" Jackson certainly wanted to shed his nickname, as well.

Posted by: AlexRemington | September 2, 2010 4:12 PM | Report abuse

For the first time in a while I'm going defended the media from charges of incompetance. Blame here probably rests with economists.

From an economist's point of view, job losses can be considered a good thing, because the jobs were not needed. Firings suggest the labor market is behaving efficiently, cutting costs in response to decreases in revenue.

Posted by: dollarwatcher | September 2, 2010 4:58 PM | Report abuse

The economy doesn't shed, relinquish, or otherwise reduce jobs. Employers lay off workers. The same employers, some public but mostly private, have been laying off employees for 24 months. While some promote the "private sector" for its astounding efficiency and capability, it doesn't seem interested in stepping up to the plate for fellow Americans lacking work and work opportunity. And for those who seem to be sleeping-dreaming, there is no such thing as an information economy. People thrive by planting and harvesting, by building and digging, by creating and manufacturing. Look at the fastest growing economies in today's world (or look at how the United States grew to a world power). People need to eat, to learn, to be sheltered and clothed. Those are the activities that ultimately produce income and underlie power.

In a generation, the history of a species is not changed. We are floundering because we produce too little of the finished goods we need. We anticipate wealth without work. Well now we have little work and falling wealth. Nothing is a given; we need to regain our sense of what makes "worth" and forget the relentless pursuit of wealth.

Posted by: Jazzman7 | September 2, 2010 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Ruthy, perhaps not mentioning job losses at all would satisfy your need to report in a "sensitive" way. In lieu of that option, I recommend that you send your suggestion to the "Unicorn Hunters" of Lake Superior State University in Michigan's Upper Peninsula at Sault Ste. Marie.

Posted by: shangps | September 2, 2010 6:05 PM | Report abuse

Invoking a definition as in "Webster's defines [fill in the blank] as...." is a crutch of a poor journalist. This is how many an 8th grade book report is started and apparently how a long tenured WaPo OpEd columnist also starts her articles.

I believe "shed" is the proper word choice. How else can you explain sticking to the same tactic that has failed to create jobs for the past two years. Either you want job loss to occur or you're insane.

Insanity is defined as "doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results". See what I did there, Ruth, I used your tactic (or many an 8th grader) and gave it right back to you.

Posted by: d-35 | September 3, 2010 2:23 AM | Report abuse

What Marcus really wants is a Ministry of Truth. It's motto might be: Euphemism today; Memory hole tomorrow.

Posted by: elgropo1 | September 3, 2010 2:32 AM | Report abuse

You prefer the word "lost"? Things shed can be regrown. Things lost are lost.

Posted by: JSDickey | September 3, 2010 10:02 AM | Report abuse

I'll stop using shedding when you stop with the jobs saved nonsense.

Posted by: elcigaro1 | September 3, 2010 10:28 AM | Report abuse

Obama's key economic advisors Christina Romer, Austan Goolsbee and Robert Reich admit that Keynesian formulas were completely useless in predicting how bad the recession would be, and then turn right around and use those exact same formulas to justify the success of the stimulus.

By definition. Obamas advisors are insane.

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

We REALLY REALLY need to change the government in November.

Posted by: avatar666 | September 3, 2010 10:51 AM | Report abuse

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