In the United States, election season runs on numbers. How much money has been raised? How many voters have been registered? What are the latest poll numbers? And how many days are left until Election Day?
In this churning sea of dollars, statistics and calendars, one number carries special importance for the 2012 presidential race: the national unemployment rate. For voters and politicians alike, jobs are an important indicator of the nation’s overall economic health.
The 7.8 percent unemployment rate announced October 5 is the lowest since January 2009, the month President Obama assumed office. It continues a slow, relatively steady downward trend, but remains historically high. In coming days, Democrats will highlight the improvement, while Republicans will characterize the figure as not good enough.
No president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt (during the Great Depression) has won re-election with the unemployment rate higher than 7.2 percent.
The next employment figure will be released November 2, four days before Election Day. But by then, with early voting, up to 40 percent of Americans will have already cast their ballots.