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Grocery shoppers in Washington, D.C., last month. Photo: Ting Shen/Xinhua via Getty Images

The Consumer Price Index has replaced the jobs report as the most anticipated data drop by the U.S. government.

Why it matters: Rising prices tend to lower political fortunes. Washington and Wall Street are now waiting for the CPI number to flash at 8:30am ET around the 10th day of each month. This month's report — due Friday morning — will give a reading of how hot inflation ran in November.

  • Economists expect the monthly CPI to rise 0.7% month-on-month, for an annual rate of 6.7%.
  • October’s 6.2% annual reading was the highest since 1990.

The big picture: With unemployment at 4.2%, Congress and the Federal Reserve appear more interested in price pressures than the jobless rate.

  • Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has made clear he wants a better read on inflation before agreeing to President Biden’s plan to spend an additional $1.75 trillion to combat climate change and expand the social safety net.
  • Last month’s red-hot reading validated Manchin's earlier inflation concerns.

Flashback: Before the 2012 election, the political implications of the jobs report were so manifest that Jack Welch, a former CEO of General Electric, went full-on conspiracy theory.

  • He accused the Obama White House of cooking the numbers when September's unemployment rate dropped to 7.8%.
  • "Can’t debate, so change numbers,” he tweeted.

What they are saying: “When I was at CEA, we would have an all-out mobilization around jobs day but barely noticed when the CPI came out. Now, it is almost the reverse,” said Jason Furman, who served as one of President Obama's chair of the Council of Economic Advisers.

  • “The CPI number is much more salient in an era when inflation is very much not under control,” Larry Summers, a former Treasury secretary, told Axios.
  • “CPI hasn’t entirely supplanted the employment report, because the employment report has all the wage data, like the changes in average hourly earnings,” he added.

The other side: Jobs day still has its loyalists, including Nela Richard, the chief economist at ADP.

  • She rates CPI as "the second-most important indicator there is, next to jobs."

How it works: Both the CPI number and the jobs data — including the household and establishment survey — are compiled by the Labor Department the day before their 8:30am release.

  • At the White House, the CEA chair get the numbers first, and starts to prepare a memo, which is eyes-only for the president, vice president and top economic advisers.
  • Some CEA chairs liked to deliver good jobs reports in person on Thursday night, potentially tipping off markets that an in-person delivery presaged a better-than-expected report.
  • While Obama tended to avoid public appearances after receiving the jobs number, lest he betray the report, President Trump was less discreet.
  • “Looking forward to seeing the unemployment numbers at 8:30 this morning," Trump tweeted at 7:21 a.m on a fine Washington spring morning in 2018.

Go deeper: Administration officials note some of the factors that will drive November's CPI, like high energy and used-car prices, have eased since the end of the month — yet won’t be reflected in this report.

  • While acknowledging prices are up, Biden officials prefer to look at the overall economic picture.
  • They point to job growth, a growing economy and an increase in real disposable income.

The bottom line: One of the White House's favorite economists, Mark Zandi, warns November's number will be "ugly."

  • "CPI inflation of 7% is possible," Zandi, the chief economist of Moody's Analytics, tweeted. "But this is the last really bad inflation number. Inflation a year from now will be closer to 3%."

Go deeper

Retail sales slipped a surprising 1.9% in December

Shoppers in San Francisco on Dec. 22. Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Retail sales fell 1.9% in December compared to the previous month, suggesting that shoppers bought holiday gifts earlier last year as they faced rising inflation and supply chain issues.

Driving the news: The data is much lower than the 0% change predicted by economists, according to FactSet.

Biden's epic failures

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

In the two months since signing the $1 trillion infrastructure bill into law, President Biden has by almost every measure bombed big time on the things that matter most.

The big picture: Biden, who marks one year in office next Thursday, has never been less popular nationally, after personally lobbying his party and the public on Build Back Better and voting rights — and failing.

42 mins ago - Health

Student's death renews calls for schools to stock opioid overdose drug

Photo: Amy Davis/Baltimore Sun/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

A Connecticut student's death has renewed calls for schools to stock and administer naloxone, a drug that can quickly reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

Why it matters: U.S. drug overdose fatalities reached six figures in a 12-month period for the first time in November, and synthetic or natural opioids were the cause of a majority of the overdoses.