Axelrod downplays political impact of pending jobs report

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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The Bureau of Labor Statistics is aiming to release its latest jobs report this Friday, Nov. 2, despite earlier suggestions that Hurricane Sandy could force a delay in the high-profile unemployment numbers.

Obama’s strategists are already spinning the pending announcement, partly because any news of continued high employment would likely damage Obama’s chances Nov. 6.

Officials are “working hard to ensure the timely release” of the October jobs report amid the weather disruption, said Carl Fillichio, a senior press adviser at Department of Labor. The federal government closed on Monday, and may close again on Tuesday.

If released on Friday, bad numbers could push late-deciding voters to vote for Gov. Mitt Romney.

Good numbers, however, may boost Obama’s polls.

Any delay would postpone the release until Monday, likely muting the impact of bad numbers.

Republicans are hyping “the notion that somehow if the job numbers come in badly on Friday they will benefit from that,” claimed David Axelrod, Obama’s chief political strategist. “That is a kind of perverse sentiment, [and] I think they will be disappointed.”

However, he also tried to downplay the political impact of disappointing numbers.

“I think the American people understand the larger distinctions that play here in the choice in front of them. That’s why we are ahead now, that’s why we’re going to be ahead Nov. 6,” he claimed.

Axelrod’s spin helps him mute the damage that would be caused by data showing few new jobs, but also help him tout any good news as proof of what he called the GOP’s “faux bullishness” during the final stage of the campaign.

On the first Friday of every month, officials at the Bureau of Labor Statistics announce job data from the just-completed month.

They calculate the unemployment rate by calling 60,000 households, and calculate the number of new jobs by collecting data from 141,000 business and agencies.

The numbers are usually quite similar, but a growing number of conservatives are concerned that agencies’ officials are fudging the numbers to aid Obama’s re-election campaign.

The September results, for example, showed little increase in employer-reported jobs amid a remarkable drop in the unemployment rate, from 8.1 percent to 7.8 percent.

The divergence, said BLS officials, was partly caused by the delay in getting California’s household survey completed.

But some GOP advocates fear that lower-level BLS surveyors are boosting reports from the household survey to reduce the apparent unemployment rate. So far, there’s no evidence to validate those gripes, which will resurface if October’s data — due to be released Friday, Nov. 2, also show a sharp divergence between the household and employer data.

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