Unemployment: bending the trend

An awful lot is being made of the unemployment rate and how it may well fall on President Obama’s re-election hopes like one of those giant ACME anvils that always clobbered the coyote in the old cartoons. It is a fair concern.

People without jobs have a pronounced tendency to unleash their fury against people in power, and no matter how much you may campaign as an “outsider,” once you’ve spent four years in the Oval Office, you’re an insider by almost any measure. And when the economy goes bad, usually insiders get punished.

But I’ve spent some time comparing unemployment figures to re-election bids of the past (oh, yes, I’m a party animal!) and the relationship is not as paint-by-number as you may think.

A high unemployment rate is not necessarily as deadly to an incumbent as conventional wisdom dictates. Ronald Reagan, early in his presidency, presided over some shockingly big jobless digits, slightly worse than anything we’ve seen under President Obama. Yet, he survived nicely.

Others have, too. The secret is not in the numbers alone, but rather, in the trend. With rare exceptions, voters will hold onto a sitting president even with high unemployment figures if those numbers appear to be dropping. In Reagan’s case, the unemployment figures steadily fell as he made his way toward re-election, so that by November the rough days seemed a distant memory to many voters.

This pattern suggests that President Obama does not in fact have to bring unemployment down below 8, 7 or 6 percent if he wants to keep himself out of the unemployment line. He just has to get it moving convincingly in the right direction.

After all, look at it this way. We all put up with bosses who may not be ideal — often through long, hard times at the office — as long as we believe they can keep us gainfully employed. But many workers will revolt in a heartbeat against a boss whom they fear is endangering everyone’s employment, even if their jobs are secure for the moment.

So lowering the unemployment rate is the goal; but in terms of re-election, bending the trend may suffice.

– CNN’s Tom Foreman is a regular on “AC360°”/www.ac360.com and “The Situation Room.”
Metro does not endorse the opinions of the author, or any opinions expressed on its pages. Opposing viewpoints are welcome. Send 300-word submissions to letters@metro.us.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Earth Day New York food toolkits to help…

Hundreds of classrooms across New York City already have indoor container gardens that allow students to grow food right where they learn. But Earth Day…

Local

NYPD announces street closures for United Nations General…

The United Nations representatives are in town, and multiple city streets will be closed to traffic through Saturday, Sept. 26. The NYPD is urging those…

Local

Flood Wall Street protesters shut down lower Manhattan…

Riding the momentum of Sunday’s People’s Climate March, more than a thousand protesters filled Broadway in lower Manhattan on Monday, shutting down traffic. Flood Wall…

Local

Mayor pledges lower greenhouse gas emissions from New…

Just hours before the start of the People’s Climate March on Sunday, and two days ahead of the United Nations Climate Summit, Mayor Bill de…

Television

10 Facts you won’t learn about Frankie Grande…

Frankie Grande is the worst and/or the best. Whether or not you're a fan, you'll want to know these facts about the polarizing player from "Big Brother 16."

Movies

Antoine Fuqua can kill someone with just a…

It's amazing what you can get done with the right tools. In designing the climactic battle in "the Equalizer," in which Denzel Washington's retired special…

Movies

Guess Ben Kingsley's worst filmmaking experience

Here's a fun game: Sir Ben Kingsley has made a lot of films since "Gandhi" in 1982, but at least one of them was a…

Books

Does Lena Dunham have any secrets left?

Get a sneak peek at her new book to determine if it’s worth the read.

College

College football top 25 poll: Oregon, Alabama close…

College football top 25 poll: Oregon, Alabama close in on FSU

NFL

Jay Cutler takes Marc Trestman's coaching to heart

While Jay Cutler turned to an autobiography on the man who would be his head coach, Trestman had personal experience with the player.

NFL

Jets vs. Bears: 3 things to watch

Jets fans likely chalked up Monday's matchup with the Bears as a loss when the NFL schedule came out. But given their team's play so…

NFL

Rashad Jennings carries Giants in first win this…

Rashad Jennings, who came to New York from Oakland last year, by way of Jacksonville, was highly coveted this offseason by general manager Jerry Reese.

Style

Sarah Doukas on social media, models and diversity

The maker of Kate Moss tells Metro how social media can drive the diversity change in the fashion industry.

Education

Here are this year's most creative college application…

The college application essay is one of the only times during the admissions process where a student can showcase his or her personality. While many…

Style

Nicola Formichetti on Diesel, the digital revolution and…

The artistic director of fashion label Diesel – and stylist for Lady Gaga – is creating human connection through social media.

Education

Your older siblings probably had a big impact…

As many high school students agonize over where to go to college, it turns out they turn to a very familiar source for advice and…