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
National

Florida man charged with murdering son to play…

A Florida man annoyed that his 16-month-old crying son was preventing him from playing video games suffocated the toddler, police said on Friday.

International

Powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake rattles Mexico

A powerful earthquake struck Mexico Friday, shaking buildings and sending people running into the street, although there were no reports of major damage.

News

OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…

International

Jews in eastern Ukraine ordered to register, Kerry…

Secretary of State John Kerry condemned reports that Jews in eastern Ukraine had been ordered to register with the authorities "or suffer the consequences."

Entertainment

Whoopi Goldberg makes her debut as marijuana columnist

"It helps my head stop hurting, and with glaucoma your eyes ache, and she takes the ache out. It's wonderful," she said.

The Word

Kate Middleton made fun of Prince William's bald…

Kate Middleton and Prince William are in Sydney, Australia, right now, and it sounds like that brash Aussie sense of humor might be rubbing off.

The Word

Is Tom Cruise dating Laura Prepon?

"Mission: Impossible" star Cruise is said to be dating Laura Prepon, star of "Orange is the New Black."

Television

'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…

NBA

Carmelo Anthony agonizing over Knicks future as season…

There’s still the cloud hanging over the franchise’s head as to the pending free-agent status of All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony.

NFL

Jets host players with eye toward NFL Draft

The Jets hosted a number of NFL Draft hopefuls for workouts on Thursday, with an eye toward some under-the-radar players.

NFL

Chris Johnson: I wanted to go to 'a…

Now that Chris Johnson is a Jet, the team has to figure out if one of the most explosive players in the NFL over the last half decade has anything…

NHL

Rangers' speed versus Flyers' size makes interesting playoff…

Among the myriad aspects that will make this Metropolitan Division semifinal series fascinating will be the battle between the Rangers' speed and the Flyers' size,…

Tech

VIDEO: 'Vein-scanning' may become the future of paying

Designed to make transactions quicker and easier, the technology works by scanning the unique vein patterns in each person's palm.

Tech

#FollowFriday: 10 of the smartest Twitter accounts

Spending lots of time on Twitter? You might as well learn something. Here are some of the smartest accounts to follow.

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.

Wellbeing

Why is dance cardio taking off in NYC?

Instructors at some of the city's hottest classes explain why.