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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.

Biden blindsides Europe with new AUKUS alliance on China

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Biden is constructing and deepening new alliances to strengthen the U.S. position in its showdown with China, but he risks alienating longstanding allies in the process.

Why it matters: Biden heralded a new agreement to help Australia acquire nuclear submarines as part of a trilateral security pact with the U.K. and the U.S. as an "historic step" to update U.S. alliances to face new challenges. The message from French foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, was quite different.

Trump voices support for Saturday's pro-Capitol riots rally

Photo: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Former President Trump on Thursday expressed solidarity with people facing prosecution in connection to the Capitol insurrection.

Why it matters: The statement was issued ahead of Saturday's rally to protest the treatment of Capitol rioters. Over 600 known federal defendants face charges related to the Jan. 6 insurrection.