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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

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
Nov 8, 2020 - Economy & Business

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.

Updated 49 mins ago - Politics & Policy

National Guard chief: Pentagon's "unusual" Jan. 6 restrictions led to 3-hour delay

William Walker, commanding general of the D.C. National Guard, testified Wednesday that a three-hour delay in approval for National Guard assistance during the Jan. 6 Capitol attack was exacerbated by "unusual" restrictions on his authorities by Pentagon leadership.

Why it matters: Walker testified that if Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy had not prohibited him in a Jan. 5 memo from using the National Guard's "Quick Reaction Force" without authorization, he would have "immediately" sent troops to the Capitol after receiving a "frantic call" from then-Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund.

1 hour ago - World

U.S.-Iran nuclear diplomacy is going nowhere fast

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Iran's cool response to the Biden administration's push for diplomatic engagement, along with rising tensions in the region, makes clear that salvaging the 2015 nuclear deal may be far more difficult than many had anticipated.

The state of play: Both the U.S. and Iran have entered the diplomatic dance, but it seems to be moving in circles.