Tonight's X-Factor: The August Jobs Report

Posted: Sep 06, 2012 8:02 PM

Hanging over President Obama's acceptance speech tonight is the looming August jobs report, which will drop at 8:30 tomorrow morning.  Will it punctuate the convention on an upbeat note, or puncture its "forward" message?  As he addresses the hall this evening, Obama will already know the answer to that question:

When President Barack Obama takes the stage Thursday night at the Democratic convention, he’ll probably know a secret about the economy that you don’t: The contents of Friday’s employment report. But don’t expect easy clues in his big speech. Mr. Obama doesn’t have to wait until the formal release to see the numbers. Under a decades-long practice, a select group of U.S. officials learns the contents of each month’s jobs report on the Thursday evening before its release. The Bureau of Labor Statistics delivers the information sometime Thursday afternoon to the White House Council of Economic Advisers, which analyzes the data and prepares a memo for the president. (The CEA chairman or director of the National Economic Council often informs the president in person).

As of this writing, Obama has likely been briefed on the August numbers.  What should Americans expect to see tomorrow morning?  Ed Morrissey has a useful rundown of early -- and conflicting -- projections.  One report anticipates relatively good news, while another tells a very different story.  Last August, the US economy added zero jobs, due in part to no seasonal adjustments.  Will there be adjustments made in August 2012's official BLS report?  We'll know soon enough.  Many economists believe we'll add somewhere in the range of 200,000 jobs, and the unemployment rate will continue to languish right around the current 8.3 percent mark, give or take a fraction of a percentage point.  How would that outcome jibe with with Bill Clinton's upbeat assessment of the Obama economy last night?  The Obama campaign is downplaying expectations and distancing itself from Clinton's sunny appraisal:

Barack Obama's campaign manager Tuesday distanced the president from a key rhetorical tack in President Bill Clinton's speech Thursday, in which the former president broke with a standing Obama campaign rule and did his best to persuade the American people to see the economy as he does: On the cusp of a boom...Asked about whether Clinton's remark — which did not differ substantively from his prepared text — represents a new Obama campaign tack, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said, "That was him. That was president Clinton talking."

Had Messina already gotten wind of the August jobs report when he backed away from Clinton's rhetoric?  Barring a shockingly terrible number, Team Obama will hail the figure as progress and a step in the right direction.  Republicans will say America can do better, pointing to Obama's own spending binge-justifying projections as an indictment: 


Americans have grown increasingly pessimistic on the economy.  Will tomorrow shake things up or help calcify existing perceptions?