Ohio's Strong(er) Economy Tilts Toward Obama

Josh Barro is the lead writer for the Ticker, Bloomberg View's blog on economics, finance and politics. His primary areas of interest include tax and fiscal policy, state and local government, and planning and land use.
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Two weeks ago, the release of the national unemployment number created a stir, including Jack Welch’s claim that the books may have been cooked. We’ll see another national unemployment figure right before the election on Friday, November 2, but this morning was the last time before the election that the Bureau of Labor Statistics released state unemployment data.

Bloomberg has a great tool for exploring state-level economic data that you should check out.  Six of the eight most closely contested states reported lower unemployment rates this month than last, though only four had statistically significant drops: Colorado, Florida, Iowa and Nevada.

Ohio’s job performance, in particular, continues to outpace the country’s. Unemployment in Ohio was 7.0 percent as of September. That’s not a statistically significant drop from last month’s 7.2, but it is down 3.6 percentage points from its peak of 10.6 percent three years ago. National unemployment has only fallen 2.2 percentage points from its peak.

You can really see how Ohio stands out in the charts. There are other states with relatively low unemployment, but that’s usually because unemployment simply never got that high to begin with: Virginia and Iowa are examples. Poor performers, like North Carolina and Nevada, had big surges in unemployment in 2008 and 2009 and have recovered weakly. Ohio is the rare case of a state that is having a strong recovery in jobs.

This might explain why President Barack Obama is doing relatively well in Ohio, a state that was key to both of President George W. Bush’s close wins. Even though Obama slightly trails Mitt Romney in the average of national polls, he leads nearly all of the recent Ohio surveys, with an average lead of 2.4 points. It’s easier to sell voters there on the idea that the economy is on the upswing.

(Josh Barro is lead writer for the Ticker. E-mail him and follow him on Twitter.)


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