The Campaign Spot

No Heads-Up for Obama on Jobs Numbers

Below I noticed that earlier in the week, Obama (and Biden) had suggested that today’s jobs report would include some significant good news. It ended up being pretty disappointing; only 41,000 private-sector jobs created, with more than 90 percent of the new jobs from the Census, and due to disappear later this year. An economics grad student who worked as a research assistant at Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers a few years ago offers this take:

The confidentiality of economic data is taken quite seriously by the people who handle it (typically the Bureau of Labor Statistics for employment-related data or the Bureau of Economic Analysis for GDP-related data), so Obama’s comments from Wednesday were likely as speculative as the forecasts by private economists. The data agencies typically complete their work during the afternoon on the day before the data release, at which point the (still confidential) report gets delivered to the statistics people at the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA). CEA then prepares a memo which gets delivered to a select group of high-level people in the administration the evening before the public release. If I recall correctly, this included the President, Vice-President, OMB Director, Treasury Secretary, and Press Secretary in addition to the relevant people at CEA under the Bush administration (the list may not be 100% right, point being simply that it’s limited to quite high-level people). It would still be a breach of the law for these people to talk to others about the data prior to the 8:30am release. Mark Knoller from CBS was likely either referring to speculation from earlier in the week or had been talking to someone in the administration who likes to pretend to know more than they really do.

This is both reassuring and troubling. It’s good to know that the data is being managed the way it’s supposed to, but troubling that A) the administration is proving so repeatedly blindsided by disappointing economic data and B) they haven’t learned to stop promising that good news is just around the corner.

And hey, if these folks are so good at keeping secrets, could we have these data agencies handle all the classified counterterrorism programs that keep ending up on the front page of the New York Times?

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