Another poorly performing variable is the unemployment rate. It has had essentially no relationship to election results at all.Republicans are not going let Obama -- or the country -- off the mat by passing any measure likely to boost job growth. It's that simple.
However, while the unemployment rate had told us very little, the rate of change in the jobs market has been fairly meaningful. Here, for instance, is a comparison of election results to the rate of payroll jobs growth — the variable you often see highlighted when the government releases its jobs report on the first Friday of each month.
This variable has had an r-squared of .44 — a fair amount better than G.D.P. or disposable income. Thus, while the raw rate of unemployment has been one of the least useful variables for forecasting election results, the rate of job growth during the election year (whether measured by this variable or by closely-related ones like the net change in the unemployment rate or the employment-to-population ratio) has held up pretty well. So pay attention to those employment reports, as common sense would dictate.
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