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In elections, jobless trend matters more than rate

January 8, 2012 • Business


FILE – In this Aug. 27, 1959 file photo, Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower cups his ear as he listens to a question from a newsman at a news conference at the West German Foreign Ministry, in Bonn, Germany. Going back to 1956, no incumbent president has lost when unemployment fell over the two years leading up to the election. (AP Photo, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Unemployment is higher than it’s been going into any election year since World War II.

But history shows that won’t necessarily stop President Barack Obama from reclaiming the White House.

In a presidential election year, the unemployment trend can be more important to an incumbent’s chances than the unemployment rate.

Going back to 1956 no incumbent president has lost when unemployment fell over the two years leading up to the election. And none has won when it rose.

The picture is similar in the 12 months before presidential elections: Only one of nine incumbent presidents (Gerald Ford in 1976) lost when unemployment fell over that year, and only one (Dwight Eisenhower in 1956) was re-elected when it rose.

Those precedents bode well for Obama. Unemployment was 9.8 percent in November 2010, two years before voters decide whether Obama gets to stay in the White House. It was down to 8.7 percent in November 2011, a year before the vote. It fell to 8.5 percent in December and is expected to fall further by Election Day.

Even so, the unemployment rate is still at recession levels. And former Massachusetts Login to read more

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