An interesting tweet caught my eye this week.
That’s an interesting data point in the context of a president who regularly cherry-picks economic numbers to make the case for the runaway success of his administration. If the economy under President Trump is so robust, why are so many states — much less states that supported him — seeing increases in their unemployment rates?
The problem with the data presented, though, is that it’s also cherry-picked. Unemployment numbers fluctuate, particularly at the state level. By choosing different start months, it gives the impression of a consistent trend across states that doesn’t exist. West Virginia, for example, did see a rise of a point since May, but South Carolina’s been in the 3.9-to-4.1-percent range consistently during that same period.
The tweet, though, prompted me to look up how each state had done since Trump took office. And there is a pattern that emerges: States that voted for Trump have seen an average drop in their unemployment rates that’s twice that of blue states.
Here are all 50 states presented in an unhelpful way. (Puerto Rico had seen a big drop in its unemployment rate that reversed after Hurricane Maria hit.)
If we break out each state by how it voted in 2016, the patterns are apparent. Three of the seven states (and D.C.) that voted most heavily for Hillary Clinton in 2016 saw an increase or no change in unemployment relative to January 2017. Of the 13 states that voted most heavily for Trump, only two — Montana and South Dakota — saw an increase. Two, Tennessee and Alabama, saw huge drops.
That holds broadly. Eight of 21 blue states (and D.C.) saw increases in unemployment or no change relative to January 2017. Only four of 30 red states are in the same position.
Averaging those changes shows that the average drop in red states was twice that of blue states. Even after removing Tennessee and Alabama (because they skew the results), that holds true.
Why? In part, because they were higher to start with. On average, blue states had unemployment rates of 4.3 percent in January of 2017, compared with a red state average of 4.6. By December, the averages were 4.1 percent and 4 percent. More parity but a bigger drop in red states.
Note that the original tweet includes Tennessee as having seen a rise in unemployment. That’s … not quite the whole picture. While several of those states did see upward shifts from the middle of last year, nine of the 11 have seen drops in unemployment under Trump.
Whether he deserves credit for those drops — or blame for any increases — is left as an exercise for the reader.