July’s Jobless Rate Up in Most Presidential Battlegrounds

Photographer: Matthew Staver/Bloomberg

Job seeker at a job fair in Denver, Colorado. Close

Job seeker at a job fair in Denver, Colorado.

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Photographer: Matthew Staver/Bloomberg

Job seeker at a job fair in Denver, Colorado.

The unemployment rate rose last month in every battleground state in the presidential election except Ohio.

Employers still added jobs in more than half of the electoral swing states, indicating progress in local economies. Competition for job openings heightened as more people resumed looking for work.

The trend, captured in state-level data released today by the U.S. Labor Department, parallels changes in the nationwide employment picture. National unemployment rose to 8.3 percent in July even as employers added 163,000 jobs during the month.

In an election dominated by economic concerns, President Barack Obama has benefited from better local conditions in many of the states where he and Republican Mitt Romney have concentrated their efforts.

The movements in state-level joblessness aren’t big enough to have a significant impact on voting, said Dan Schnur, a campaign adviser to Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s first bid for the White House in 2000.

“At this point, voters have made up their minds about the economy,” said Schnur, director of the Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. “They’re not frightened any more but they’re a long way from being satisfied. It would take a very, very dramatic change to alter their perceptions.”

Campaign Targets

Moody’s Analytics Inc., which forecasts presidential election results based solely on state-by-state economic data and past voting behavior, predicted Obama winning 303 electoral votes earlier this month.

A candidate needs to capture 270 Electoral College votes to win the presidency. The 12 swing states, which have historically been competitive or are targeted by one of the campaigns, have a combined total of 151 votes. Not all of them will be in play this November.

The Labor Department report shows swing-state voters confronted a tighter job market in July, except for Ohio, where the unemployment rate was steady at 7.2 percent. Ohio’s economy has been aided by the rebound of the auto industry and a surge in oil and natural gas development through the use of a technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Ohio was one of only six states that didn’t experience a rise in its unemployment rate.

Rising Jobless Rates

Joblessness in Nevada surged to 12 percent from 11.6 percent last month after declining or holding steady for three straight months. Florida unemployment, which rose to 8.8 percent from 8.6 percent, was up for the first time since March.

In other focal points of the campaign, unemployment in Colorado rose to 8.3 percent from 8.2 percent; in Iowa to 5.3 percent from 5.1 percent; in New Hampshire to 5.4 percent from 5.1 percent; in Pennsylvania to 7.9 percent from 7.6 percent; and in Virginia to 5.9 percent from 5.7 percent.

Among other states that the presidential campaigns have targeted, unemployment in Michigan rose to 9 percent from 8.6 percent; in New Mexico to 6.6 percent from 6.5 percent; in North Carolina to 9.6 percent from 9.4 percent; and in Wisconsin to 7.3 percent from 7 percent.

Employers added jobs in July in Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia.

Michigan showed the second-largest gain in payrolls, adding 21,800 jobs in July, behind only California. Virginia was third, with a 21,300 gain.

Payrolls declined in Florida, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Nationally, payrolls grew in 31 states last month.

State and local employment data are derived independently from the national statistics, which are typically released on the first Friday of every month. The state figures are subject to larger sampling errors because they come from smaller surveys, making the national figures more reliable, according to the government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mike Dorning in Washington at mdorning@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at skomarow1@bloomberg.net

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