Sandy from Space

NASA image of Sandy from space at 9am ET

The known late-campaign “surprise” were the final pre-election jobs report scheduled for Friday. Both campaigns were poised to jump on whatever positive or negative numbers came out of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But the unknown late-campaign “surprise,” Hurricane Sandy, which before it even hits land has flooded coastal areas all over New York and New Jersey, could lead to a delay in that jobs report. The federal government is basically closed down for today, and that could delay the BLS enough so they would not make their timeline.

The Labor Department said Monday that it has yet to make a decision on whether to delay Friday’s closely-watched October employment report due to the effects from Hurricane Sandy.

Federal government offices in Washington are closed Monday and may be shut again Tuesday due to the storm. It isn’t clear if the closure would cause a delay in processing the data.

“We will assess the situation when the weather emergency is over and notify the press and public of any changes at that time,” said Gary Steinberg, spokesman for the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the data arm of the department.

Obviously if the power goes out in the Washington area, processing the jobs report becomes that much more difficult. In addition, collecting survey data is hampered by the storm conditions in the areas affected, which consists of as much as 1/5 of the nation’s population.

It’s not totally clear how the storm would directly affect the jobs numbers. We’re already pretty late in the month, and so any layoffs or reduction in hours resulting from the storm would presumably slide into November rather than October.

Accuracy of the data matters far more than whether voters get a noisy, rushed data point on which to base their voting decision. If the BLS can’t make the numbers in time, they absolutely should delay it. But given how conservatives unilaterally decided that the last jobs report was rigged, I can only imagine their response to a hurricane-caused delay.

UPDATE: As of this moment, the Labor Department plans to push forward and deliver the jobs numbers on schedule.