More than half of the battleground states that President Bush and Sen. Kerry are fighting to capture in this year's election added jobs in September, but three-fifths have still lost jobs since Bush took office, according to government data released Friday.
Ten of 18 crucial swing states gained jobs last month, led by Nevada, Missouri and West Virginia, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said. But seven states, including Oregon, Michigan and Wisconsin, lost jobs, and one was unchanged.
With the race between Bush and Kerry in a dead heat, state employment data have taken on added significance in the past few months. According to a recent poll by the
, voters think Kerry would do a better job at creating jobs but they also believe that Bush is better able to handle the war on terror.
The 18 states that Bush won or lost by 6 percentage points or fewer in the 2000 election shed a net 1,100 jobs in total last month.
In all, nonfarm payroll employment rose in 33 states, led in percentage terms by Kansas, Delaware, Hawaii and Nevada. Payrolls declined in 16 states and the District of Columbia, while Tennessee was unchanged. The nation as a whole added 96,000 jobs in September.
During the payroll survey, seven states were declared disaster areas as a result of four hurricanes, but the government said it is impossible to quantify the effect of bad weather on the data.
"While some employed persons were off payrolls during the survey reference period because of the hurricane effects, some jobs were added as part of recovery," the BLS said.
Nevertheless, economist Dean Maki of J.P. Morgan is convinced the storms depressed job growth nationwide.
"These seven states had average job growth of 35,100 per month in the June through August period," he said. "In September, the seven states lost 17,500 jobs, indicating that job growth in these states was 52,600 below the recent trend."
He estimates that hurricanes reduced the nation's job growth by about 40,000 to 50,000 last month. Economists had expected payrolls to climb by 150,000 in September.
The job market has proven to be a key campaign issue for both political candidates this year. While Bush has boasted of 1.9 million jobs gains since August of last year, Kerry has accused the president of losing 1.6 million private sector jobs over the course of his tenure. In total, about 585,000 jobs have been lost since Bush took office, including recent benchmark revisions.
Since January 2001, 11 of 18 swing states have seen employment shrink while seven have seen an increase.
Just this week,
said it would cut 1,000 jobs, with most occurring by year-end. Meanwhile,
has said more layoffs could come next year. The company has already announced 7,500 job cuts.
The unemployment rate fell in 46 states last month, rose in three states and the district of Columbia, and was unchanged in one state, the government said. The national unemployment rate was 5.4% in September, down from a high of 6.3% last June.
The 18 battleground states in the upcoming election are Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.