WASHINGTON, Oct. 30 (UPI) -- The U.S. Labor Department says it intends to release the awaited October jobs report on schedule Friday despite Hurricane Sandy but can't be sure yet.
"The employees at the [department's] Bureau of Labor Statistics are working hard to ensure the timely release of employment data on Friday," department spokesman Carl Fillichio said in a statement. "It is our intention that Friday will be business as usual."
His statement sought to clarify an earlier department statement saying the agency would assess how to handle data releases this week after the storm "weather emergency" was over.
The department is also scheduled to release its third-quarter employment cost index detailing the changes in the costs of labor Wednesday and the third-quarter productivity and weekly jobless claims reports Thursday.
Friday's employment report, scheduled to be released at 8:30 a.m. EDT, would be the last report on the nation's unemployment rate and labor market before the Nov. 6 elections.
Federal government offices in Washington were closed Monday and were to be shut again Tuesday because of the storm.
The agency stated the regular Friday release time on its website Monday night, a United Press International check indicated.
Initial reports of a possible delay fueled speculation the jobs data -- good or bad -- might not be released until after the elections, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The unemployment rate last month fell to 7.8 percent from 8.1 percent, the lowest level since Obama took office. The economy added 114,000 that month, the Labor Department said.
The Obama administration points to 24 consecutive months of job growth as evidence the economy is recovering. The Romney campaign says the unemployment rate was above 8 percent until September, showing job progress is too slow.
The September report sparked controversy after some conservatives suggested the numbers had been changed to help Obama's re-election chances.
Former General Electric Co. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jack Welch said the Obama campaign manipulated the figures for political advantage.
White House Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Alan Krueger called Welch's comments "irresponsible."
U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Monday questioned whether the possible October report delay was politically motivated.
"Labor Dept says may release latest Unemployment figures until after election. Par for course. Why release something might hurt Obama elect?" Grassley posted in a Twitter message.
Cheryl Abbot, a regional economist for the Dallas BLS branch, told The Hill her bureau does not take any political factors into account when determining when to release reports.
"That's not going to play into it at all. It's just going to be a matter of if our people can get into the office and do the work required," she said.
The unemployment rate comes from a survey of 60,000 households and the jobs figures come from a survey of 141,000 business and agencies. Both surveys were conducted this month and were being processed, The Wall Street Journal reported.
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