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Economy / ECONOMY

Data Show Mixed Jobs Picture in Swing States

photo of Niraj Chokshi
October 19, 2012

Most of the 16 states identified by National Journal as key battlegrounds in the presidential election saw less improvement in unemployment last month than the nation as a whole, according to fresh Labor Department data.

The U.S. unemployment rate fell three-tenths of a percentage point to 7.8 percent in September, reaching its lowest level since January 2009, the month President Obama took office. Only three battleground states enjoyed a similar decline, with the remainder seeing smaller drops and one state seeing an increase from August. Half the battlegrounds ended September with unemployment below the 7.8 percent national rate, while half ended the month above that level.

Voters in battleground states with below-average unemployment generally favored Obama, while those in states with an above-average rate generally backed Romney, according to RealClearPolitics's poll averages. But the level of unemployment is an imperfect predictor of presidential preference.

 

Nevada had the highest unemployment rate among the battlegrounds at 11.8 percent, while Iowa had the lowest at 5.2 percent. Obama is leading in both states, according to RCP averages. And while unemployment in Missouri is 0.6 percentage points below the national average, Romney has a solid lead there.

Only Nevada, Iowa, and Missouri saw unemployment drop by 0.3 percentage points in September, in line with the national average. Just one state, Pennsylvania, saw unemployment rise, by a tenth of a percentage point. And unemployment held steady in New Hampshire and Virginia. The remaining states saw unemployment drop by one- or two-tenths of a percentage point.

Here's the percentage of the workforce that is unemployed in each battleground state, as of September:

  • Nevada: 11.8
  • North Carolina: 9.6
  • Michigan: 9.3
  • Florida: 8.7
  • Arizona: 8.2
  • Indiana: 8.2
  • Pennsylvania: 8.2
  • Colorado: 8
  • Wisconsin: 7.3
  • Ohio: 7
  • Missouri: 6.9
  • New Mexico: 6.4
  • Virginia: 5.9
  • Minnesota: 5.8
  • New Hampshire: 5.7
  • Iowa: 5.2
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