On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its state and regional unemployment report for the month of June. Overall, the numbers were not positive: Twenty-seven states reported increases in their unemployment rates from the previous month, while 11 states, plus Washington, D.C., posted decreases. Twelve states remained unchanged.
The year-to-year numbers were more encouraging: Forty-seven states, plus D.C., reported lower unemployment rates than they had in June 2011. Key swing states were among those showing significant drops in the unemployment rate from the previous year. Nevada’s unemployment rate has dropped 2.2 percent since June 2011, Florida’s has dropped 2.1 percent, Michigan’s, 2 percent, Ohio’s, 1.7 percent.
These states share something else: They all have Republican governors.
“Over the past 12 months, Republican governors have been making the tough choices necessary to provide certainty to job creators. Republican governors have closed massive budget deficits while holding the line on taxes, reined in unsustainable entitlements and seen their credit outlooks upgraded,” said Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, chairman of the Republican Governors Association and potential vice presidential pick, in a statement on Monday.
“As a result, businesses in Republican-led states have been able to overcome strong national economic headwinds to add jobs and drive down unemployment.”
It bears mentioning that several of the aforementioned states still have unemployment rates higher than the national average of 8.2 percent: Nevada’s unemployment rate is 11.6 percent, Florida’s is 8.6 percent as is Michigan’s. Nevertheless, the positive economic trend is an encouraging sign that lifts enthusiasm for the residents of these states, and presents an interesting conundrum for Romney.
These successful Republican governors are theoretically great surrogates for the Romney campaign. All have strong numbers to support their claims that their patented GOP way of doing things works. But the economic improvement in their states could have a positive ripple effect for Obama instead of Romney.
Although much of the rhetoric on the campaign trail has focused on the national unemployment numbers, the state numbers will likely be just as important. After all, the election will ultimately come down to a handful of states, and if those states are seeing a solid uptick in their economic outlook, voters may feel less inclined to shake things up.
This conundrum has presented itself before. In June, reports emerged that Romney’s campaign had asked Florida Gov. Rick Scott to downplay the Sunshine State’s job gains.
The Romney campaign disputed the claim, but the story highlighted the question that will continue to follow it in the coming months if this uptick continues: How does it assure that Republicans get the credit for an individual state’s economic success?