The Job Market In Swing States: Will That Predict The Election?


job market swing states

"Are you better off now than you were when Obama took office?" This has been Mitt Romney's campaign trail refrain, and so October's jobs numbers were greeted heartily by team Obama. Unemployment is now at 7.9 percent -- around the same rate as January 2009 -- which means that for the average American, the jobs situation may not be better, but it isn't worse, either.

The job situation of the average American doesn't matter this election, though. What matters is the job situations of average Americans living the country's 13 swing states. Many pundits say these will be the ones deciding the next president, and if jobs are one of the greatest forces behind their choice (Obama has a seven-point lead among the employed, while Romney has a six-point lead among the jobless, according to a recent survey from Beyond.com), it makes sense to take a closer look at the jobs numbers in those embattled patches of our land (the latest state unemployment numbers are still from September).

Setting aside the four swing states where unemployment hasn't changed, here's the electoral math: If Romney were to scoop up all the 21 solidly red states (169 electoral votes), plus all five swing states where unemployment is worse (54 electoral votes), and Obama were to take all 15 solidly blue states and D.C. (201 electoral votes), plus all four swing states where unemployment is better (51 electoral votes), then the presidential candidate with the edge would be ... (drum roll) ... Obama, with 252 votes compared to Romney's 223. (It takes 270 electoral votes to win.)

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Of course, life and people and politics aren't that simple. In Arizona and Florida, for instance, the unemployment rate is back to where it was when Obama took office, but both states are still polling for Romney. Nevada, meanwhile, is polling for Obama, despite an unemployment rate of 11.8 percent rate, the worst in the nation, and higher than when Obama took office. (The polling numbers are Real Clear Politics' averages of the latest polls.)

Clearly, there are plenty of other issues that affect a voter's choice, from immigration to a candidate's character to the harpings of his or her mate. And even when it comes to the issue of jobs, the soft sentiment of hopefulness may matter more than the hard numbers themselves.

Caveats aside, take a look at the numbers below, and then tell us: How do you think the election will swing?


ARIZONA

Unemployment under Obama: Unchanged

Unemployment rate in January 2009: 8.3%
Peak unemployment rate since recession: 10.8%
Unemployment rate in September 2012: 8.2%
Trend: Unemployment rate has been declining since early 2010.

Electoral Votes: 11
Past elections: Voted Republican in every election since 1952, except for Clinton in 1996.
Poll average: Romney leading by 5.3 points.

COLORADO

Unemployment under Obama: Worse

Unemployment rate in January 2009: 6.6%
Peak unemployment rate since recession: 9%
Unemployment rate in October 2012: 8%
Trend: Unemployment rate was declining since the end of 2010, but ticked up slightly this summer.

Electoral votes: 9
Past elections: Voted Republican in every presidential election since 1964, except for Bill Clinton in 1992 and Obama in 2008.
Poll average: Romney leading by 0.2 points.

FLORIDA

Unemployment under Obama: Unchanged

Unemployment rate in January 2009: 8.7%
Peak unemployment rate since recession: 11.4%
Unemployment rate in September 2012: 8.7%
Trend: Unemployment rate has been declining since early 2010.

Electoral votes: 29
Past elections: Voted Republican in every presidential election since 1952, except for Lyndon Johnson in 1964, Jimmy Carter in 1976, Bill Clinton in 1996, and and Obama in 2008.
Poll average: Romney leading by 2.1 points.


IOWA

Unemployment under Obama: Better

Unemployment rate in January 2009: 6.1%
Peak unemployment rate since recession: 6.3%
Unemployment rate in September 2012: 5.2%
Trend: Unemployment rate has been declining since Summer 2010.

Electoral votes: 6
Past elections: Voted Democratic since 1988, except for George W. Bush in 2004.
Poll average: Obama leading by 2.4 points.


INDIANA

Unemployment under Obama: Better

Unemployment rate in January 2009: 8.9%
Peak unemployment rate since recession: 10.7%
Unemployment rate in September 2012: 8.2%
Trend: Unemployment rate has been declining since the fall of 2009.

Electoral votes: 11
Past elections: Voted Republican in every election since 1940, except for Lyndon Johnson in 1964 and Obama in 2008.
Latest poll: Romney leading by 12.5 points.


MICHIGAN

Unemployment under Obama: Better

Unemployment rate in January 2009: 11.3%
Peak unemployment rate since recession: 14.2%
Unemployment rate in September 2012: 9.3%
Trend: Unemployment rate has been declining since Fall 2009, but rising against since the spring.

Electoral votes: 16
Past elections: Voted Democratic in the last five elections, but Republican in the five before that.
Poll average: Obama leading by five points.


NEVADA

Unemployment under Obama: Worse

Unemployment rate in January 2009: 9.6%
Peak unemployment rate since recession: 14.0%
Unemployment rate in September 2012: 11.8%
Trend: Unemployment rate has been declining since Fall 2010, but rose slightly this summer.

Electoral votes: 6
Past elections: Voted Republican from the late 60s to the late 80s, but voted for Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996 and Obama in 2008.
Poll average: Obama leading by three points.


NEW HAMPSHIRE

Unemployment under Obama: Worse

Unemployment rate in January 2009: 5.2%
Peak unemployment rate since recession: 6.7%
Unemployment rate in September 2012: 5.7%
Trend: Unemployment rate has been declining since the beginning of 2010, but began rising again this summer.

Electoral votes: 4
Past elections: Voted Democratic in the last five elections, except for George W. Bush in 2000.
Poll average: Romney leading by one point.


NORTH CAROLINA

Unemployment under Obama: Worse

Unemployment rate in January 2009: 9.0%
Peak unemployment rate since recession: 11.4%
Unemployment rate in September 2012: 9.6%
Trend: Unemployment rate has been declining since early 2010, but rose slightly this summer.

Electoral votes: 15
Past elections: Voted Republican every year since 1980, except for Obama in 2008.
Poll average: Romney leading by 5.6 points.


OHIO

Unemployment under Obama: Better

Unemployment rate in January 2009: 8.6%
Peak unemployment rate since recession: 10.6%
Unemployment rate in September 2012: 7.0%
Trend: Unemployment rate has been declining since the beginning of 2010.

Electoral votes: 18
Past elections: Voted Republican in five of the last eight elections, but went for Clinton in 1992 and 1996 and Obama in 2008.
Poll average: Obama leading by 2.1 points.


PENNSYLVANIA


Unemployment under Obama: Worse

Unemployment rate in January 2009: 6.8%
Peak unemployment rate since recession: 8.7%
Unemployment rate in September 2012: 8.2%
Trend: Unemployment rate has been declining since early 2010, but began rising slightly this summer.

Electoral votes: 20
Past elections: Voted Democratic in the last five elections.
Poll average: Obama leading by five points.


VIRGINIA


Unemployment under Obama: Unchanged

Unemployment rate in January 2009: 5.8%
Peak unemployment rate since recession: 7.3%
Unemployment rate in September 2012: 5.9%
Trend: Unemployment rate has been declining since the beginning of 2010, but rose slightly this summer.

Electoral votes: 13
Past elections: Voted Republican in every election since 1952, except Lyndon Johnson in 1964 and Obama in 2008.
Poll average: Tied.


WISCONSIN


Unemployment under Obama: Unchanged

Unemployment rate in January 2009: 7.2%
Peak unemployment rate since recession: 9.1%
Unemployment rate in September 2012: 7.3%
Trend: Unemployment rate has been declining since early 2010, but rising again since May.

Electoral votes: 10
Past elections: Voted Democratic in every presidential election since Ronald Reagan in 1984.
Poll average: Obama leading by 2.8 points.


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