One of the government's most-hyped economic reports may start getting even more scrutiny thanks to Ben Bernanke. That's because the Federal Reserve chairman made some news on Wednesday: For the first time, he gave a target unemployment rate for when the Fed might fully wind down its monthly multibillion asset purchases.
The Fed, he said, could fully end its $85 billion in monthly stimulus spending when the unemployment rate is around 7 percent—likely in mid-2014. Even he admits that the prediction could be wrong, but anxious markets will track any metric available to determine the Fed's future actions. Wednesday's announcement alone—one of eight scheduled throughout the year—seems to have driven the Dow Jones Industrial Average down by dozens of points.
The monthly jobs report has a history of being prodded and politicized. And Bernanke's comments could bring renewed focus on them, at least among the financial press. But even when the unemployment rate does hit 7 percent, we won't know about it for sure until weeks later. The margin for error for the unemployment rate—currently at 7.6 percent—is 0.2 percentage points.