Swing-State Economy Shown in Polls

Photograph by Scott Eells/Bloomberg

A Ford Motor Co. Mustang at the 2012 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit.

As a dear old newsman once asked, “Ever wonder why?”

In an election contest dominated by the state of the American economy — with unemployment hovering above 8 percent nationally, and voters nationwide voicing mixed approval for President Barack Obama’s handling of the economy — how is it that the president is running so well in the dozen swing states that will determine the outcome?

The economy, generally, is doing better there.

Another newsman, Bloomberg’s Mike Dorning, has reported on this well.

And today’s poll of 12 swing states made us think about the latest data here.

Start with Virginia, where unemployment stood at 5.6 percent in April, the last month for which state statistics are available. Even at its worst, during the deepest recession since the 1930s, Virginia’s unemployment peaked at 7.3 percent in January 2010. The state’s overall economic health — as measured by a composite index tracked by the Bloomberg Economic Evaluation of States — was fairly steady last year, down by just 0.2 percent in 2011.

Look at Michigan: unemployment at 8.5 percent in April, yet down from a peak of 14.2 percent in February 2010. Personal income in the state was up 4 percent last year, a component of the BEES index.

Florida: unemployment at 8.6 percent, yet down from a peak of 11.5 percent in February 2010.

New Hampshire: 5 percent unemployment — and, even at its peak in January 201, 6.7 percent .

Iowa: 5.1 percent unemployment — even at its peak, in November 2010, 6.3 percent.

It’s not a completely rosy picture, the composite picture of the swing states. But overall, it’s a more positive picture than the one portrayed in the last monthly report of the Department of Labor on June 1, which showed unemployment inching up nationally. And, in an election determined by the electoral votes of several key swing states — where Obama holds an 8 percentage point advantage over Republican Mitt Romney in today’s NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, and an edge in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania in today’s Quinnipiac University poll — the economic data are noteworthy.

This is the swing-state story, by the numbers:

Colorado: 8.1 percent unemployment in April, down from a peak of 9 percent in November 2010. The BEES measure of overall economic health improved by 1.6 percent last year.

Florida: 8.6 percent unemployment in April, down from a peak of 11.5 percent in February 2010. Economic health down 1 percent last year, with home prices a big drag, down 5.7 percent.

Iowa: 5.1 percent unemployment in April, down from a peak of 6.3 percent in November 2010. Economic health up .3 percent last year.

Michigan: 8.5 percent unemployment in April, down from a peak of 14.2 percent in August 2009. Economic health up 4 percent last year.

Nevada: 11.6 percent unemployment in April, down from a peak of 14 percent in October 2010. Economic health up 2 percent last year.

New Hampshire: 5 percent unemployment in April, down from a peak of 6.7 percent in January 2010. Economic health down .9 percent last year.

New Mexico: 6.7 percent unemployment in April, down from a peak of 8 percent in October 2010. Economic health down 7.5 percent last year, though personal income was up 4 percent.

North Carolina: 9.4 percent unemployment in April, down from a peak of 11.4 percent in February 2010. Economic health down 3.8 percent last year, though personal income was up 4.2 percent.

Ohio: 7.3 percent unemployment in April, down from a peak of 10.6 percent in January 2010. Economic health up 1.6 percent last year.

Pennsylvania: 7.4 percent unemployment in April, down from a peak of 8.7 percent in March 2010. Economic health down .3 percent last year.

Virginia: 5.6 percent unemployment in April, down from a peak of 7.3 percent in January 2010. Economic health down .2 percent.

Wisconsin: 6.8 percent unemployment in April, down from a peak of 9.2 percent in January 2010. Economic health down 3.2 percent last year, though personal income was up 4.5 percent.

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