The unemployment number for November will be released this Friday, December 6. The previous report for October was a little late to the dance, having been released on the second Friday of the month rather than the first, the typical release date. rates staying lowIn fact, various economic bits of data were tardy due to the partial government shutdown in early October. The report coming out this Friday however shouldn’t have very much, if any, skewed data due to the government layoffs.

The Federal Reserve Board has made it clear over the past year that the current quantitative easing program, round II, will continue until the unemployment rate drops to 6.5 percent. The QEII program consists of $85 billion in Fed purchases each and every month until the 6.5 percent benchmark is reached. At that point, according to the Fed, the QEII will slowly ride off into the sunset. That’s why Friday’s unemployment number will be closely watched. While no one expects the rate to drop from its current 7.3 percent level all the way down to 6.5 in just one month, economists will look for a trend and if the non-farm payroll count is at or above the 204,000 number reported for October, it would appear the Fed’s program will end sooner rather than later. Or will it?

Early last month, the Fed’s own economists suggested waiting until the unemployment rate dropped even further, to 6.0 percent or even lower still to 5.5 before pulling back the QEII campaign. That’s quite a bit to ask, especially the 5.5 target. We haven’t seen any rate under 6.00 percent since July of 2008, more than five years ago.

If the Fed’s own economists are suggesting lowering the target rate to as low as 5.5 percent, that could mean interest rates could stay in their current range well into the fourth quarter of next year. If that’s the tack the Fed is taking, we should know when the minutes are released from the Fed’s January round of meetings.