With election day upon us, all eyes are focusing on the nine states likely to decide the outcome. To get a better idea of voter concerns, it's worth taking a look at the employment situation in these critical states.
Within the swing states—Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin—hiring in healthcare and education are up, but unemployment isn't down.
"Healthcare companies are among the most prevalent employers in every swing state," Indeed.com Communications Manager Michael Werch wrote in a statement, adding, "Educational institutions such as Denver Public schools and Duke University are tied directly into the local economies and are highly visible in their communities."
[See our list of the Best Healthcare Jobs.]
The Cleveland Clinic and Cincinnati Children's Hospital are the top companies currently hiring in Ohio. Both organizations are on the prowl for registered nurses and patient care assistants. The North Carolina-based Carolinas Healthcare System is hiring for positions like clinical care coordinator and behavioral health nurse, while Duke University has openings for an athletic department assistant, financial analyst, and clinical nurse educator. States including Wisconsin have seen homegrown chain stores like Kwik Trip Inc. seek out new personnel for their payrolls. Technology- and defense-oriented companies like SAIC and General Dynamics are searching for system engineers, software developers, and programmers.
A caveat to keep in mind is that jobs stemming from top employing fields, particularly education, could be the result of a short-term hiring surge or the filling of vacant positions rather than the creation of a new ones. Plus, "the numbers of jobs that are being created, it's probably not going to be statistically significant in higher ed, even though there's growth," says Alison Doyle, a job search and employment expert for About.com.
And while Indeed.com's data is useful for gauging what sectors are doing well in politically influential parts of the country, the true barometer for determining the possible winner in these states is a side-by-side comparison of the statewide and national unemployment rate.
In some swing states, education and healthcare hiring hasn't been heavy enough to lower the unemployment rate below the October national average of 7.9 percent.
[Read: Where the Jobs Will Be in 2020.]
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics September jobs report, the most current data available for states, Nevada's unemployment rate remains stuck at 11.8 percent. Florida's current rate of 8.7 percent mirrors where it stood when President Barack Obama assumed office.
Michael Barone, a senior political analyst for the Washington Examiner and co-author of The Almanac of American Politics, notes that the growth in healthcare jobs has been a steady trend rather than a new development. "If you look over the last 10 years, you'll see an increase in the healthcare sector, pretty clearly," he says.
From his vantage point, Barone doesn't see the hiring practices of certain sectors persuading swing-state voters to support a particular candidate. States that voted for Obama in 2008 that have had a chronically high unemployment rate equal to or above the current national average could flip for this election. Colorado, Florida, Nevada, and North Carolina fit that description. But in other states, like Iowa and Ohio, unemployment has notably fallen since Obama became president.
Still, encouraging signs of an economic rebound may not prove to be a political silver bullet for the president, as polls in these states show a close race. Moreover, a recent Fox News poll from all-important Ohio shows the state's Republican governor, John Kasich, has a 45 percent to 35 percent advantage over the president among likely voters when they were asked who deserved more credit for reversing the once-bleak jobs picture. Kasich and Obama hold up differing policy agendas as the basis for reviving Ohio's fortunes.
When the election passes, the unemployment rate in swing states will be zeroed in on, looked to as a critical indicator for explaining the behavior of voters who decided to either stick with the current president or settle on a new one.
But job seekers in those states will care less about dour discussions over an umoving statistic and more about a path forward to employment.
Corrected on 11/05/2012: A previous version of this story misstated the title of Michael Werch, Indeed.com's communications manager.