The chart shows the most recent month's unemployment rates organized by state, along with historic highs and lows for each state (plus the District of Columbia) since 1976. The figures tell a story very much at odds with conventional wisdom and reporting done over the past decade regarding the Bush administration, but otherwise closely tracks that of other administrations.
I reviewed the chart and found the following:
The historic low unemployment rates (since 1976) for twenty of the fifty states were recorded during the years of George W. Bush’s administration. Seven of those were at the very beginning of his term (in January through March of 2001). Thirteen of them, however, were in Bush’s second term when his policies had certainly had plenty of time to take hold and he had solid reason to claim credit.
On the flip side of the economic picture, the chart showed that eleven states (including the District of Columbia) have experienced their record high unemployment rate (since 1976) over the past few months – several months after passage of Barack Obama’s so-called stimulus bill. The most recent month’s unemployment figures for an additional five states are within one percentage point of the record high since 1976. In other words, sixteen states are now experiencing at or near record high unemployment.
In my home state of North Carolina, the highest unemployment rate since 1976 was experienced in May of this year, at 11.1 percent. The most recent month cited on the chart (September 2009) showed NC with a 10.8 percent unemployment rate, a difference of only 3/10ths of a percent.
California experienced its historic high unemployment mark since 1976 in August of this year with 12.3 percent unemployment. Last month the number had only improved to 12.2 percent. Delaware’s worst unemployment since 1976 was seen in June at 8.4 percent. By September, the number had only improved to 8.3 percent. The District of Columbia experienced its historic high of 11.4 in September of this year, as did Florida (with 11.0), Nevada (with 13.3) and Rhode Island (with 13.0).
For eight years of George Bush’s administration conventional wisdom, encouraged and reinforced by the reporting done by the mainstream media, was that we were in the midst of one of the worst economies in the history of the world. When the unemployment rates were several points lower than they are today, Nancy Pelosi was asking, “Where are the jobs, Mr. President.” Yet the figures from the Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics show some of the states’ best employment rates since 1976 were recorded during George Bush’s second term, with thirteen states experiencing them in years after Bush’s policies were instituted.
A look at the list shows thirty-two states’ high unemployment marks occurred during Ronald Reagan’s term in office – with almost all of those concentrated in late 1982 through early 1983. In his second term several states experienced record low unemployment. Twenty states experienced their record low unemployment rates since 1976 during Bill Clinton’s administration. A look at Reagan’s approval ratings during the first half of his first term, compared to later years of his administration, and certainly a look at Bill Clinton’s approval ratings during his time in office reflects those numbers.
Unemployment rates are only one little piece of the economic picture, but they are a powerful one when it comes to public perception and approval. During the Bush administration those in the media, as well as Bush’s political opponents, were very successful in downplaying the good jobs numbers and shaping public perception.
Recently there have been similar efforts to shape public opinion, but this time in favor of Barack Obama, by minimizing the results of the stimulus plan. Since this is very early in his term and the economic situation could improve significantly over the next few years, Obama may not need such help. But if the economy does not improve soon, not even a fawning media and Democratic Congress will be able to move public opinion enough to stop the steep drop he is seeing in his approval numbers.
Posted originally at American Issues Project.