South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday)

Counties with higher jobless rates voted for Biden

- By Ella Koeze

The counties won by President-elect Joe Biden experience­d worse job losses, on average, during the initial wave of pandemic layoffs than counties where President DonaldTrum­pwas strongest in his bid for reelection.

After the worst of the downturn inApril, many of themost affected redcountie­s recovered far more swiftly than blue counties did. By September, as unemployme­nt fell nearly everywhere, blue counties were more likely to have higher unemployme­nt rates.

The economy is usually a big issue in election battles, and this election season saw both historical­ly low levels of unemployme­nt before the pandemic and later the worst rates of job loss since theGreat Depression.

Trump’s supporters said consistent­ly as the election approached that the health of the economywas important to them. In exit polls conducted by Edison Research, among those who said the economy mattered the most across a range of issues, 83% voted for Trump, compared with 17% who supported Biden.

This gap in unemployme­nt between Trump and Biden counties plays out on a state level as well and has persisted even after many people returned to work.

Research has shown that Democratic areas, which tend to be more urban and have higher concentrat­ions of service jobs, were particular­ly devas

tated by the economic fallout early in the pandemic. Many of these blue-leaning areas, including Clark County, Nevada, home to Las Vegas, rely on tourism. Miami-Dade County, Florida, is another blue county where the disappeara­nce of tourists damaged the economy.

In states such as Alabama and Mississipp­i, blue-leaning counties also have higher concentrat­ions of Black residents— a group that has been disproport­ionately vulnerable to job loss and has lagged behind white workers during the economic crisis.

This pattern, however,

does not hold true in every part of the country. The state with the highest county unemployme­nt rates in April was Michigan, with 1 out of every 3 residents in some counties out of work. Several of the worst- hit counties in Michigan went on to vote for Trump.

The unemployme­nt gap in Michigan was shortlived: By September, the average unemployme­nt rate for blue counties was similar to the average for red ones.

According to Steven Miller, an economist at Michigan State University, unemployme­nt

levels in the state can be at least partly explained by underlying seasonal trends. Rural Cheboygan and Mackinac counties, which had the two highest unemployme­nt rates in the country in April, rely heavily on outdoor recreation and tourism. Both had high unemployme­nt rates before the virus outbreak during the offseason months of January and February, but as people spent time outdoors for pandemic-safe recreation over the summer they bounced back.

“Over the summer what was surprising is that tourism and outdoor activities

actually picked up,” Miller said. “These northern counties had somewhat of a positive economic offset.”

Both Cheboygan and Mackinac countieswe­nt to Trump by more than 20 percentage points.

Those summertime economic boosts, however, will not sustainman­y rural counties through the fall and winter. While the economy has been slowly adding back jobs since April, the current surge of cases spreading through the middle of the country could squeeze the economy, including in places that have so far escaped the worst job losses.

 ?? RONDACHURC­HILL/GETTY-AFP ?? Clark County, Nevada, home to Las Vegas, relies heavily on tourism. President-elect Joe Biden won the state.
RONDACHURC­HILL/GETTY-AFP Clark County, Nevada, home to Las Vegas, relies heavily on tourism. President-elect Joe Biden won the state.

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