On Friday the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its state-by-state jobs figures, and it led to interesting patterns when you overlay it with the results of the presidential election. This is especially true in the Midwest, which had 4 states flip from voting for Democrat Barack Obama to Republican Donald Trump.
What you'll find is that those Midwestern states had tepid job growth in the 12 months before the election. The notable exception was the state of Michigan, which consistently did well during the Obama presidency after seeing its unemployment rate rise to near 15% in the late 2000s.
Private sector job growth, Oct 2015-Oct 2016
1. Mich +2.41%
2. Iowa +1.41%
3. Minn +1.19%
4. Wis. +1.12%
5. Ind. +1.03%
6. Ohio +0.82%
7. Ill. +0.53%
6 of those 7 states ended up below the rate of job growth for the nation as a whole, as private sector jobs increased in the US by 2.15 million (1.78%) from October 2015 to October 2016. But as you’ll see, over half of that can be accounted for in 7 states, and most of these states are on the coasts and the Sun Belt, with one notable Midwestern exception.
Most private jobs gained, US, Oct 2015-Oct 2016
A similar pattern emerges from looking at the highest rate of gains in private sector jobs in all states with over 1 million total jobs- all are in the West and the South.
8 fastest job growth rates, Oct 2015-Oct 2016
Interestingly, if you go into David Wasserman’s National Popular Vote Tracker, you’ll see that 6 of the 8 states that shifted more than 1% towards the Democrats in this election are in one or both of these lists (and a 7th, Arizona, just missed the cut for job growth). In addition, only New York, Tennessee and Michigan had shifts toward Trump that were above the 2.6% shift that has happened nationwide (and Clinton still won NY by more than 21%).
This is in stark contrast to the lower-growth Midwest. Outside of the strongly blue state of Illinois, all Midwestern states slanted significantly away from Clinton and towards Trump in comparison to the Romney-Obama race of 2012.
2012 vs 2016 change, president
Ill. No change
Ind. GOP +8.8
Iowa GOP +15.2
Mich GOP +9.7
Minn GOP +6.2
Ohio GOP +11.5
Wis. GOP +7.9
Which leads me to wonder this chicken-egg question. Was the fact that the Midwest was being left behind the rest of the country in the last year a reason behind these states turning towards Trump, and have our national policies failed in accounting for specific factors relevant to having the Midwestern economy sink or swim (or did policy that favored Western/Sun Belt states)?
Or on the flip side, is the fact that Midwestern states are overwhelmingly run by Republican governors and legislatures a reason why their economies suck, especially after big GOP victories in 2014? And if so, did that sucky economy and lack of job growth lead to enough discontent so that many low-educated white guys wanted to vote for Trump to “clean things up/ blow things up”?
In other words, did bad GOP policies and governance in these states mess things up in such a way that it helped to get a GOP president elected? And was that part of the design of these ALEC-GOP elected officials in those states?
If so, it seems to have worked, and now we’re likely to see the rest of the country fall short like the Midwest has in the last year, instead of following the path of the blue-trending states that have been excelling over the last 12 months. And it leads to a classic "What's the Matter with Kansas?" problem where awful right-wing policies leads to such despair and anger that people continue to vote GOP out of blind frustration. Which keeps trickle-down Republicans in charge, enables them to slant the field against these poor and working-class people some more, and it continues the cycle all over again.