Why Friday's Jobs Report Meant Nothing for the Election

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) - It wasn't supposed to end like this.

The final monthly jobs report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics offered investors an upside surprise in the number of jobs created and a slight uptick in the unemployment rate, but for most voters it likely came with a whimper instead of a roar.

"I think most people's decisions are already made by this point," said Fergus Cullen, a Republican political consultant in New Hampshire. "Even the president's supporters have to be disappointed with the economy and clearly that is what has made the race as competitive as it is."

Early voting has grabbed headlines in 2012 as an enormous number of voters across the country have headed to the polls to cast early ballots. In a sense, it's already been Election Day for weeks now.

President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney made it clear in the closing statements of their final debate last week that each of them offered a "very different" path for the country to take. In other words, the candidates agreed that, after all the negative campaigning and months of stump speeches, voters should have an obvious choice for president.

Though there were still enough undecided voters that analysts and polling experts said were up for grabs to turn the election, it's difficult to argue that Obama and Romney can do much in the final weekend to fundamentally change minds.

The October jobs report could have offered that massive shift in voter opinion, if there was a substantial drift downwards in total nonfarm payrolls added, or, say, if the unemployment rate ticked down two-tenths of a percentage point, or more.

"The uptick in the actual unemployment rate could have been a huge last minute push for the Romney people, but the 171,000 jobs makes it a wash," said Michael Goldman, a Democratic operative in Massachusetts. "All this does is it reinforces predisposed biases of both of the candidates."

If the president loses, said Goldman, it's because "people have just decided that they want somebody else to do the job, not because of these October jobs economic numbers."

A clue that the campaigns remained unaffected by the latest jobs report is that spin from both camps failed to change meaningfully on Friday.

The White House trotted out a statement from Alan Krueger, the president's chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, who continued to repeat that more work remains to be done and that the latest report suggested that the U.S. economy continues to show signs of improvement after the worst downturn since the Great Depression.

Because the unemployment rate ticked up in the latest report, Romney's statement focused on that. He said the 7.9% rate was a sad reminder that the economy is at a virtual standstill.

Third-quarter gross domestic product came in at 2% last Friday, in line with the consensus view. Many analysts have argued that GDP hanging around 2% or lower is indicative of the stalemate Congress has sustained for more than a year.

The focus among investors, and maybe among many American voters, has been to get past the election so that Congress can reach a budget deal to allow the country to avoid a fiscal cliff.

This may simply have been another month, and another jobs report. Or, business as usual until politicians in Washington D.C. can broker agreements in 2013 that will give companies a more stable economic environment -- specific taxes, regulations, cuts, and more -- to begin to invest corporate capital for growth.

"Regardless of who is elected in November, the market is going to rally and the reason is less uncertainty," Jerry Chafkin, chief executive officer of AlphaSimplex Group, said last month at a luncheon event.

--Written by Joe Deaux in New York.

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