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Report: Chicago Teachers Strike May Impact Monthly Jobs Report


Pundits on both the left and right side of the political spectrum have noted the White House's almost deafening silence on the Chicago teachers strike.

Indeed, given the president's tendency to inject himself into pop/current affairs (see Henry Louis "Skip" Gates, Jr., Trayvon Martin, and Sandra Fluke), his non-opinion on the Chicago strike is really quite odd.

You’d think a guy who once served in the Illinois state Senate and spent a good deal of time living in Chicago would at least have an opinion on the matter. But no, the president has been eerily silent.

Well, that may soon change: "the Chicago teachers strike is so large it could distort national economic statistics, including the Labor Department's key monthly jobs report," CNN Money reports.

Considering the current state of the economy and the role it has played in the presidential election, the damage the strike could cause to September's jobs report may actually force President Barack Obama to take a position on Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's massive union headache.

The strike, which consists of about 26,000 teachers and staff, has entered its second week.

"The strike's timing is key, in that it coincides with the period in which the government collects data for the national jobs report," CNN Money notes. "Last month, that report showed the economy added only 96,000 jobs. The number was seen as weak, posing a challenge for President Obama as he faces re-election."

Keep in mind, 9,000 of those 96K were utilities workers returning to work after resolving their strike. Also, it’s important to note that when the Labor Department does its monthly survey of employers, the Chicago Public Schools system is included in its sampling.

"In the case of Chicago Public Schools, teachers are paid on a biweekly schedule. The current pay period started September 9 and runs through this Saturday, September 22. The teachers that are striking are not receiving any pay from the school district during that time, unless they report back to work," CNN Money notes.

This means that unless the strike is resolved soon, Chicago Public Schools will have 26,000 fewer things to report when the Labor Department asks "how many employees do you currently have on your payroll?"

"Only [Chicago Teachers Union] members who we can confirm reported to work during the strike will be paid by CPS during that time frame," Marielle Sainvilus, a spokeswoman for the school district, told CNN.

If the strike isn’t sorted out by the end of this week, the striking teachers and staff will be counted as "out of work" (but not "unemployed").

"The effect it has on the national number has yet to be seen, but the strike is big enough to swing things," Labor Department Economist John Coughlan said in the same report.

However, it should be pointed out that the strike probably won't affect the unemployment rate.

"[T]he strike is unlikely to have any effect on the unemployment rate. That number is calculated from a separate survey of households and only includes people who lost a job through no fault of their own," CNN Money notes.

Still, although it doesn't seem likely a continuation of the strike will drive up September’s official unemployment rate, 26,000 people removed from the Labor Department’s monthly jobs report won't be a good optic for Team Obama.

Follow Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) on Twitter

All photos courtesy the AP.

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