Labor Dep't: On second thought, looks like we might have that jobs report ready on Friday after all

Sandy did hit D.C. but only with a glancing blow, so the prospect of BLS statisticians being stranded at home in the suburbs has faded along with the storm. Even if they were getting hammered, though, if you worked for BLS, wouldn’t you move heaven and earth to make sure this report came out according to its regular schedule? If they delayed what turned out to be a bad report and Obama won the election in the interim, they’d have half the country suspicious of their motives unto eternity. As would also be the case, needless to say, if the incumbent were a Republican and staring down the barrel of a jobless rate stuck near eight percent.

Crisis (probably) averted:

A Labor Department official tells CBS News correspondent Bob Fuss there should be no delay in the release of the monthly employment report. It’s expected to be released this Friday at 8:30 a.m. ET…

There had been some speculation the report would be delayed as a result of Superstorm Sandy. Preparation for the jobs report typically ramps up in the week of the release. The federal government was closed Monday and Tuesday due to the storm.

On Monday the Labor Department had issued a statement saying, “It is our intention that Friday will be business as usual regarding the October Employment Situation report.”

ABC and Bloomberg were hearing the same thing earlier this afternoon, with former Obama advisor Austan Goolsbee telling the latter that he expected BLS would crunch the numbers at their satellite offices outside D.C. if need be rather than delay the report. Bloomberg makes a fair point in arguing separately that it’s silly for people to put so much stock in a measurement that tells us so little about what’s really going on in the economy (a point HA readers understand only too well), but there are lots of silly things that affect people’s votes and most of them are far sillier than this. Rest assured, The One was careful to affect his most serious “serious face” while being briefed on Sandy for the benefit of the White House photographer snapping pictures in the Situation Room. Looking “presidential” in a crisis can tip votes, and that’s how you look presidential. Little late in the game now to be grumbling about the merits of the BLS numbers.

Mickey Kaus makes a fair point too. If this was all a matter of the White House and the BLS playing with the numbers to help O out, there’s obviously something more potent they could (but won’t) do than simply shelving the final jobs report:

I’m assuming the Bureau of Labor Statistics will release the October employment statistics on schedule. The paranoia that would accompany a delay (this close to the election) would be too destructive, even if the delay was justifiable. But if the Obama administration were really playing politics with the numbers in the way the paranoids fear, do you think it would merely delay the release of the numbers? Not cunning enough!

The obvious Machiavellian four-step would be 1) delay the release of the numbers 2) wait for the Romney camp to get caught up in the paranoia and publicly demand that the administration release the numbers 3) at the moment of maximum dramatic tension, release the numbers! 4) Have the numbers be unexpectedly good. … There is precedent for this maneuver. …

Exit question: How far would the current rate of 7.8 percent have to move on Friday to really impact the election? My sense of low-information voters is that they’re almost entirely tuned out to the actual numbers, and may even be tuned out to good/bad trends in the numbers unless the trend is sharp enough to lend an air of celebration or dread, as the case may be, to news stories about it. That’s what they’re reacting to I think — the tone of the coverage as a portent of how the economy more broadly is doing, not the actual facts being reported about the data. My question is, what sort of movement in Friday’s would cause the media to celebrate/despair? A one-tenth percent drop or increase? Two-tenths? And yes, it’s perfectly fine to wonder if the bar for grim reports has risen now that we’re on the eve of an election.

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Jazz Shaw 5:31 PM on December 01, 2022