Explaining Southern California's economy

An October Surprise on September jobs? Jack Welch thinks so


An October Surprise — on Twitter?

Business legend and — yes — tweeter Jack Welch is also, it seems, something of a conspiracy theorist.

When the surprising news that the U.S. unemployment rate had fallen from 8.1 percent to 7.8 percent Friday, the arrival of the lowest jobless number since 2008 prompted Welch to make certain accusations.

Here's the tweet that lit up the Twitters this morning:

Um, okay ... What really happened was that a bunch of part-time workers came into the labor force.

If that's an October Surprise, then the Obama administration is setting the bar pretty low. Chicago guys can dream bigger.

Welch will reportedly not be tweeting anymore Friday.

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August jobs report: A big disappointment at 96,000

Obama Accepts Nomination On Final Day Of Democratic National Convention

Scott Olson/Getty Images

President Barack Obama speaks on stage as he accepts the nomination for president during the final day of the Democratic National Convention. The August jobs report could be critical for his re-election hopes.

The Labor Department has just released its jobs report for August. This one has been called the most important report of the entire year — and maybe the past four years — as it falls right after the end of the Democratic National Convention and just a few hours after President Obama's nomination acceptance speech. 

The number is bad: We added only 96,000 jobs in August. The headline unemployment rate dropped to 8.1 from 8.3 percent. This is far worse that what ADP reported yesterday — 201,000 — and well below expectations. It is, however, in line with an economy that's expanding very weakly, with GDP growth at less than 2 percent currently.

So no beat of expectations, or a surprise to the upside. This pretty well guarantees that the Federal Reserve will pull the trigger on another round of "quantitative easing," injecting money into the U.S. economy to stimulate growth and get the sluggish jobs market moving. We'll get a decision on that next week, when the Fed meets.


August jobs report: Will the U.S. add 200,000 jobs?

A jobs sign hangs above the entrance to


A jobs sign hangs above the entrance to the US Chamber of Commerce building in Washington, DC.

As I reported this morning, ADP, a private payrolls processor, said that 201,000 jobs were added to the U.S. economy in August. This contrasts with the 90,000-170,000 that economists surveyed by Bloomberg are expecting and would be a decent jump from July's 163,000 figure (that number beat expectations, by the way).

Regardless of who's number you think is most plausible, the unemployment rate, currently at 8.3 percent, isn't likely to move much, even if we're closer to ADP's figure than we are to the lower end of the Bloomberg survey.

That doesn't make tomorrow's report sound very exciting. But, actually, it is.

The Washington Post summarizes rather neatly why this report is such a big deal:

Friday’s Labor Department report is more eagerly anticipated than most. It is one of only three jobs reports remaining before the Nov. 6 presidential election. And it will come just hours after President Obama claims his party’s nomination at the Democratic National Convention, capping a meeting where Democrats have argued before the nation that the economy , while struggling, is on the right track.


Mars Curiosity has landed, but the battle for JPL's budget is just taking off

NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab Holds Viewing Of Mars Curiosity Rover Landing

Pool/Getty Images

Don't get too excited. Mars Curiosity has been a big success, but there might not be much money for missions in the future.

We successfully landed a one-ton nuclear-powered robot car on a planet over 300 million miles away, using a rocket skycrane. Now Mars Curiosity has, in just a few weeks, beamed panoramic pictures of its new red world back to Earth, zapped a rock with a laser, wiggled its wheels as a precursor to its first spin on the Martian surface, and then gone for a plutonium-powered drive.

Everything is going great!

Except that back home, it isn't. They were high-fiving in their powder-blue polo shirts at Jet Propulsion Lab mission control in Pasadena, when Curiosity signaled that it had not become a $2.5-billion flame out or a smoldering hole in Gale Crater. But the future of "planetary science," with a focus on Mars, is in doubt, as science takes a back seat in NASA's budget.

Will public opinion infuence NASA's budget?


Mitt Romney is no wizard of the whiteboard — but neither is the White House


Obama/Biden 2012

The Obama campaign quickly responded to Mitt Romney's Medicare whiteboard.

If you've spent any time in a business environment, especially at a startup, you know that whiteboards rule. These are the blackboard replacements that have thronged the workplace in the past decade or so, substituting dry erase markers and a ubiquitous squeak for chalk and that whole horrible fingernails scraping thing.

Whiteboards come in many sizes, markers in many colors. Sometimes, they literally take over the entire office. I worked at an ad agency in New York for several years where the walls were magnetized whiteboards. If you had an idea, any idea, your grabbed a marker and just starting writing on the nearest wall.

Yesterday, Mitt Romney brought the whiteboard into presidential political campaiging for the first time. Mind you, the whiteboard has been a part of political communications for a while now. The White House has run a "White House White Board" series starring mainly Austan Goolsbee, the former Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors.