As he heads into the home stretch of his battle to remain in the White House, one number looms largest for President Barack Obama: 8.3.
That is the percent of Americans officially unemployed, and it hasn't budged since the beginning of the year. In January there were 12.8 million people jobless, and it was the same at the end of July.
What started as an encouraging rebound for the US workforce in late 2009, and a success story for the US president, has fallen flat. There is little he can do about it before the November 6 vote.
Obama kicks off the final leg of his neck-and-neck battle with Republican Mitt Romney on Thursday with a nationally televised address at his Democratic Party's national convention.
His challenge is to convince people he has done the best possible for the economy, generating more jobs than the Republicans would have, and more than they will if he is defeated.
But just 10 hours later the Labor Department will release fresh data on job creation and joblessness in August, and the numbers will remind voters that little has changed since a year ago.
On Friday Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke called the situation grave, suggesting that the slow economy and a Congress deadlocked over stimulus measures portend little good news for months to come.
The White House repeatedly points out that 4.5 million private-sector jobs have been created under Obama since the bottom of the recession.
Indeed, in January this year, the public was feeling the rebound and Obama's popularity over any Republican rival was high.
The unemployment rate which peaked at 10.0 percent in October 2009 had fallen steadily. The number of jobless had dropped from nearly 15 million in January 2010.
But since then, economic growth has weakened -- in part due to economic stalls in Europe and China, as well as the stalemate in Washington over stimulus measures.
As a result, few expect the unemployment numbers to change significantly on Friday or by the end of the year.
Bernanke warned moreover of a deeper malaise that is likely making it harder for Obama to make his case to the voters.
The Fed chief points to the rise in the number of long-term unemployed as well as the huge number, now 6.6 million, who have dropped out of the workforce altogether.
"The stagnation of the labor market in particular is a grave concern not only because of the enormous suffering and waste of human talent it entails, but also because persistently high levels of unemployment will wreak structural damage on our economy that could last for many years," he said.
These were the Fed chief's strongest words yet over the jobs market, and reflected what Americans feel on the ground.
Typical for many cities bypassed by any rebound is Stockton, in California's central valley, hollowed out by the real estate crash.
"Folks here have been un- or underemployed for so long the language has changed," said local anthropologist Christine Gray.
"Most families are 'making do.' Small business owners are putting their kids on their payrolls. Laid-off teachers are working part time. Laid-off managers are stringing together multiple and mostly humiliating jobs. The distinction between employed and unemployed has become nearly irrelevant."
The data bears Bernanke out: in July 5.2 million people had been without jobs for more than 27 weeks, more than 40 percent of all those jobless. Before 2009, that figure had never topped 26 percent.
This explains in part why household incomes -- and so consumer spending -- are not rebounding, according to economists. It also means that, going ahead, there will be more weight on government and working people to support those not working.
Bernanke worries that a cyclical jobless problem -- one that should correct with resumed growth -- will become a structural problem, one extremely difficult to right, said Nigel Gault, chief US economist at IHS.
"He sees that there is a time dimension here... The longer they are out of work, the more skeptically they are viewed by employers."
"Once you're out of a job, even two months, you're like expired milk," said one job-seeker.
Obama's challenge is to keep people from blaming him for the stall. The polls show that is an uphill battle, but some are willing to give him a break.
"People had all kinds of expectations in Obama, and a lot of those expectations didn't come to pass, but I don't fault him," said Charles Meade, an unemployed policy expert in Washington, his career hit in part by government cutbacks.
"Nothing is moving in Washington because of the situation in Congress," he said.
"No matter who wins the election, I have no idea whether they can turn the economy around."