But in a stroke of bad luck for President Barack Obama, that same quirk will mask real improvements to the U.S. unemployment rate over the summer and into the fall, damaging his chances for re-election.
The official Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) unemployment rate has fallen from 8.9% in October to 8.3% in January. The number for February, released today (Friday), held steady at 8.3%.
"We think that the improvement over the last few months dramatically overstates the underlying improvement," Andrew Tilton, an economist at Goldman Sachs, told Reuters. "You will not see that rate of improvement going forward."
Extended unemployment benefits began to expire at midnight Tuesday, cutting off the last lifeline of income and guaranteeing a blue Christmas for thousands of people already struggling to make ends meet.
Lawmakers are at loggerheads over whether to finance an extension with borrowed money, as they did earlier this year when benefits were interrupted for more than a month.
Indeed, investors must turn to countries where the number of people working is rising along with standards of living and consumption.
But that's not all.
There are a few companies that have been performing exceptionally well and are poised to bring investors some joy this holiday season. Before we get to those, though, let's take a quick look at the job market.
U.S. private-sector jobs last month grew by only 42,000, according to a report issued yesterday (Wednesday) by payrolls processor Automatic Data Processing, Inc. (Nasdaq: ADP). ADP revised the number of jobs added in June to 19,000 from 13,000, which fell far short of economists' predictions of 39,000.
The ADP report "shows continued weakness in the jobs market, which is in part caused by the uncertainty in the economy and general business climate," said Gary Butler, ADP's chief executive, in a statement. "American businesses are on the cusp of recovery, but more effective incentives are needed to encourage business investment resulting in the creation of more jobs."
But they're not.
Instead, they're reeling in stimulus measures and enabling a double-dip recession, simply for the sake of fiscal austerity.
The Labor Department is expected to report today (Friday) that the unemployment rate held steady at 9.7% in June, or worse, edged up to 9.8%. That would follow yesterday's (Thursday's) disappointing report that showed new claims for jobless benefits jumped by 13,000 to a seasonally adjusted 472,000. The four-week moving average, which smoothes out volatility, rose by 3,250 to 466,500 - its highest level since March.