William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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BULLETIN:  JOBLESS CLAIMS GRIM AGAIN – AT 8:37 A.M. ET:  The Labor Department just released its weekly summary of unemployment claims.  The economy continues to weaken, even as the president plays at New York parties.  From Bloomberg: 

More Americans than forecast filed applications for unemployment benefits last week, adding to concern the labor market is slackening.

Jobless claims decreased by 3,000 in the week ended Sept. 15 to 382,000, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 49 economists surveyed by Bloomberg projected 375,000.

The presidential election and looming tax increases and government spending cuts slated to take effect next year, should lawmakers fail to act, may block any pickup in hiring following last month’s smaller-than-projected gain in payrolls. The Federal Reserve last week undertook a third round of asset purchases in a bid to reduce joblessness that has held above 8 percent for more than three years.

“Businesses are nervous about the election, they’re nervous about the fiscal contraction that’s scheduled for the end of the year,” Sam Coffin, an economist at UBS Securities LLC in Stamford, Connecticut, said before the report. The Fed’s action “at the margin, will be a plus for growth, but not this year -- it takes a while for it to filter through,” he said.

Estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from 360,000 to 390,000. The Labor Department revised the previous week’s figure to 385,000 from an initially reported 382,000.

COMMENT:  Now, what precisely will Romney do with these numbers?  We are rapidly approaching the 400,000 claim mark, generally seen as a severe danger sign. 

And a new job creation report should be out in a few weeks.

By any standard, Obama should be way behind, given his catastrophic record.   Yes, he is ahead in almost all polls, and well ahead in the latest Pew poll. 

And Republican chances of retaking the Senate seem to be fading, as once-safe seats, as in Missouri and Indiana, are suddenly toss-ups or worse. 

The one piece of good news we've gotten in the last day is a new poll in Massachusetts showing Scott Brown with a six-point lead over Elizabeth Warren, contradicting two polls published earlier in the week.

But the overall picture, despite dismal economic numbers, is touch-and-go, and it shouldn't be.

September 20, 2012