This being the first week of a new month, Friday brings the monthly jobs report – a release certain to launch a whirl of spin but unlikely to greatly change the course of the presidential campaign.
The consensus forecast of economists is that the economy generated a seasonally adjusted 115,000 net new jobs in September. If so, that figure would be slightly better than August but still not enough to bring down the unemployment rate. Indeed, the forecast projects that the rate will tick up slightly, to 8.2%. But bear in mind that the consensus forecast of economists sounds more impressive than it actually is – their guess is often wrong, sometimes by a considerable margin in either direction.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which issues the jobs report, bases its figures on a monthly survey of 60,000 households. Gallup, which surveys about 30,000 households a month, issued its own unemployment estimate on Thursday. Gallup pegged the rate at 8.1% -- unchanged from August.
Earlier in the year, the monthly jobs reports were eagerly anticipated as significant milestones in the presidential campaign. The report’s effect probably never merited the level of breathless attention it received from both Democrats and Republicans, and whatever importance the numbers had in the spring has shrunk considerably by now. The vast majority of voters have made up their minds about where they think the economy stands and what its condition means for their presidential choices.
Still, there’s always the possibility that a jobs report will come in significantly above or below what economists expected, which would generate additional media attention.
Whatever the numbers, Republicans can be expected to seize on the unemployment rate, which will remain high, and use it as a reminder of the slack economy that continues to be President Obama’s biggest political vulnerability. Democrats will emphasize that the number of jobs in the U.S. economy will have gone up, which has been the case consistently for most of the past three years.