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

NYPD looking for man they say assaulted elderly…

      The New York City Police Department is asking for the public's assistance in locating a Hispanic male 20's wanted in connection with…

Local

Three arrested after allegedly assaulting off-duty officer in…

Three men were arrested early Saturday morning after allegedly assaulting an off-duty officer at a Bronx bodega, and the NYPD is asking for the public's…

Local

Healthcare union creates vibrant West Indian Day Parade…

Volunteers worked almost around the clock through the weekend, putting the flashy finishing touches on hundreds of costume pieces 1199SEIU members will wear while marching…

National

Top 10 most hipster college campuses

Hipsters are everywhere these days. You can't walk down the anywhere anymore without seeing a pair of skinny jeans on a handlebar mustachioed 20-something, a…

Arts

Theater: Discouraging 'Poor Behavior'

Theresa Rebeck's latest off-Broadway play, about two couples sparring on a weekend getaway, repeats a few mistakes of her past.

Gossip

Chef Todd English arrested for DWI in the…

Celebrity chef Todd English is facing DWI charges after a traffic stop on Sunday.

Movies

Box office: 'Guardians of the Galaxy' is 2014's…

This weekend "The Guardians of the Galaxy" passed the fourth "Transformers" movie to become the highest grossing film of 2014.

Gossip

Spears back with controversial ex?

Is Briteny Spears back with Adnan Ghalib?

Sports

Novak Djokovic feeds off US Open crowd to…

Novak Djokovic isn't a native New Yorker, but he sure knows how to use the U.S. Open crowd to his advantage.

NFL

Odell Beckham still 'weeks away,' Tom Coughlin angry…

Giants head coach Tom Coughlin has fought a losing battle against the media all preseason over the status of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

NFL

3 things we learned in the Giants preseason…

The final score didn’t matter — a 16-13 win by the Giants — but it would’ve been nice to finally see Big Blue’s new-look offense get on track.

NFL

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots, 49ers start…

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots start at top

Education

These college students think breakfast is the most…

  It should be no surprise that the city that never sleeps is also home to the most students who like to order food in…

Sex

When it comes to dating, height matters

Does a man’s height really matter when it comes to dating? Unfortunately - according to a new study - the answer looks like it’s yes.…

Travel

10 free apps to make traveling easier

Finding the nearest bathroom, calculating currency exchanges and locating your departure gate must have been difficult for travelers of previous generations. But we wouldn't know,…

Travel

How to get a seat upgrade to business…

It used to be much easier to upgrade your coach seat to business or even first class, but rigid rules and tighter schedules have made…