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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

This week America witnessed a forecasting failure of almost unprecedented magnitude. October's unemployment rate came in at 6.9%, after dozens of the best-paid and most experienced economic forecasters in the world had predicted the number would come in at 7.7%.

Why it matters: Those forecasters had literally millions of data points of information to go on, and have had ample experience with unemployment releases, which come out like clockwork on the first Friday of every month. But there will be no great post-mortem about why they got the number so wrong.

  • Forecasts, by their nature, are often wrong, even with reliable inputs and well-calibrated models. Wall Street understands this and has long learned to live with it.
  • In the case of presidential election polling, the inputs are much less reliable and the models can only be roughly recalibrated once every four years. That makes electoral forecasts extremely unreliable — an uncomfortable fact that almost no one in the media has really grappled with.

The bottom line: Americans will always latch onto whatever polls they can find, desperate to find a narrative during the long months of campaigning. But we'd be better off ignoring them entirely.

Go deeper

Over 1 million Americans filed for unemployment for 33rd straight week

Data: U.S. Department of Labor; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The number of Americans receiving unemployment benefits continues to fall, but data from the Labor Department showed more than 1 million people filed for first-time jobless benefits for the 33rd week in a row.

By the numbers: More than 738,000 people applied for first-time traditional unemployment benefits last week, and nearly 363,000 applied for benefits through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program.

Biden says Russia likely to invade Ukraine

President Biden addressed the brewing conflict between Russia and Ukraine during a press briefing Wednesday, saying of Russian President Vladimir Putin, "my guess is he will move in."

Why it matters: U.S. officials have issued a series of warnings about Russia's threatening military buildup on the border with Ukraine, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying in Kyiv earlier Wednesday that Russia could invade "on very short notice."

Biden challenges GOP agenda: "What are Republicans for?"

President Biden pushed back against Republican efforts to obstruct his agenda during a press conference Wednesday, asking "What are Republicans for?"

Why it matters: Biden's speech comes as he approaches one year in office, facing low polling numbers and a stalled agenda.