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Does Unemployment Matter?


Mike Allen, writing in the Washington Post, calls President Bush’s remarks yesterday “an acknowledgment that unemployment is a potential political liability.” That may be true–although the furthest I would go is to say that the president recognizes that appearing indifferent to unemployment would be politically hazardous. Does unemployment itself pose a danger to him?

Arguably, the last time unemployment really affected a national election was in 1982–and even then, redistricting accounted for 15 of the 26 House seats the Republicans lost. In 1992, Michael Barone has shown that Bush I lost votes where housing values had declined, not where unemployment had increased. Since 2000, more Americans have lost wealth in the stock market than have lost their jobs. I suspect that in next year’s election, the markets will matter more than unemployment–and GDP growth will probably matter more than unemployment too.


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