The last major piece of economic news before November's election is unlikely to bring relief to the millions of American workers searching for jobs -- or to the Democratic lawmakers who soon may join them.
Forecasters expect the Labor Department's 8:30 a.m. release of September unemployment statistics to prolong the economic story of the last several months: a jobless rate near 10 percent, with little or no private-sector job growth.
Preliminary numbers this week from other sources indicate that the job market could even be backsliding. This week's ADP report showed the private sector lost 39,000 jobs from August to September. Gallup unemployment surveys indicate that the government will report a slight increase in unemployment today, up from the current rate of 9.6 percent.
In a blog post Thursday, Gallup Chief Economist Dennis Jacobe warned that, because job losses accelerated at the end of September in a manner that the Labor Department's snapshot won't catch, "The jobs picture could be deteriorating more rapidly than the government's job release suggests."
Democratic allies see little hope for a major drop in the jobless rate.
"The forecasts all look fairly grim: slight upticks in unemployment -- I'm still not sure if that will be statistically significant or not -- and minimal job growth in the private sector," said Heather Boushey, senior economist at the liberal Center for American Progress. "The narrative that we're all jelling around is we continue to be an economy that's stuck in first gear."
Democrats are already bracing themselves for those numbers, and attempting to parry them by tying Republicans to overseas sources of campaign funds and the offshoring of American jobs to foreign competitors.
"The choice for middle-class families is clear," said Ryan Rudominer, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "Continue to move forward, or go with Republican candidates and their shady right-wing backers that have been using secretive foreign sources to elect a strong vote for their pro-outsourcing agenda."
Regardless of the outcome in November, economists do not expect the jobless numbers to improve anytime soon.
"Unemployment stays horrifyingly high in the decade after a financial crisis," said Kevin Hassett, director of economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. "Absent brilliant policymaking, which is way better than the average of the past, we're headed for 8 percent [unemployment] eight years from now."
Democrats may try to console themselves with the time-tested fact that economy-minded voters tend to make their decisions based on data from several months before an election -- but, of course, things were just as bad several months ago as they are now.
"For the purposes of the election, [these numbers] are irrelevant," said Michael Mandel, chief economist for Visible Economy LLC, an economic news and education company. "Everybody's feeling about the economy is set already."