The Campaign Spot

The Last Big Economic Indicator Before Election Day . . . Is Bad.

Heading into these final weeks, I concluded there was one last economic indicator that I thought could make a difference in the election. The October jobs numbers won’t come out until one week from now, but there is a key economic figure released today: the measure of the economy in the third quarter of the year.

If it was a good number, Democratic candidates would at least have something to talk about in this final weekend; they could argue the recovery was just beginning to pick up steam and America should see a shrinking unemployment rate in the coming months. The voters may not have believed them, but at least Democrats could make the argument. If it wasn’t a good number . . . well, it would be just one more nail in the coffin, to use a Halloween metaphor.

The number is out. and it’s not pretty:

Real gross domestic product — the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States — increased at an annual rate of 2.0 percent in the third quarter of 2010, (that is, from the second quarter to the third quarter), according to the “advance” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the second quarter, real GDP increased 1.7 percent.

Better to expand by 2 percent than to shrink, but this is a miserably anemic number for an economy allegedly emerging from a deep recession.

Good night, Democrats.

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