FiveThirtyEight Blog: Effect of Jobs Numbers on Presidential Race is Uncertain
Friday’s jobs report was a weak one — with August’s job growth more in line with the tepid growth of the spring than the stronger numbers in July or over the winter months.
Furthermore, job-growth numbers for May and June were revised downward slightly, and manufacturing jobs — a measure that Democrats touted at various points during their convention this week in Charlotte, N.C. — fell by 15,000.
Politically, however, it is less certain that the report is going to matter that much. The unemployment rate declined for superficial reasons, which makes for a gentler headline for President Obama.
Perhaps more important, the report did not change the basic story of an economy that is experiencing subpar growth but is in recovery rather than recession.
The jobs numbers are subject to a fair amount of statistical noise; on average, the monthly job-growth number misses the market’s expectation by about 70,000 jobs. As a rough rule, the jobs numbers might have to be off about that much in one direction or another to tell a substantially different economic story, which in this case would have meant fewer than about 60,000 jobs being created or more than about 190,000.
2. Remember, jobs figures are for the previous month...
...so the last figures to affect the race (released four days before the election) will be for October, a bit early for most seasonal hiring.
Plus, it's not at all clear if those figures will make much of a difference, as most minds will have been made up by then. Probably the last figures that could affect the race in a significant way will be those for this current month, to be released at the start of October.