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Swing State Midterm Election Voters Face Different Economic Issues

It’s no secret that midterm voters are obsessed with inflation. In an NBC News poll of registered voters last month, economic concerns topped all other issues.

That’s as true in this year’s election battlegrounds as it is in areas where races are far less competitive. But in the handful of states that will decide Senate control and have tight gubernatorial races, different economic conditions mean voters may weigh a different mix of priorities. Recent data from three swing states – Wisconsin, Arizona and Pennsylvania – shed light on the different economic pressures that could influence choices at the ballot box.

Wisconsin: Food

In Wisconsin, where Democrat Mandela Barnes is vying to unseat GOP Sen. Ron Johnson and Democratic Gov. Tony Evers faces Republican challenger Tim Michels, the job market is hot. Unemployment stood at 3.2% in September, lower than the national rate of 3.5%. But inflation remains a big concern, and compared to the rest of the country, Wisconsinans may be feeling the pressure more at the supermarket than at the pump.

Gas prices in the state have recently fallen to an average of $3.60 a gallon, compared to $3.76 nationally, after the nationwide surge this summer. However, other basic necessities remain expensive, especially food. Wisconsin metro areas aren’t large enough to break down in federal data, but food prices in the Midwest have risen 12.7% over the past year, compared to 11.2% nationwide. national. In Milwaukee, milk prices averaged $5.26 a gallon in October, up 32% from a year ago and well above the national average of $4.41.

The issue has featured prominently in the Wisconsin Senate race, with Johnson accusing the Democrats policies that “make it hard to put food on the table” and Barnes cutting a grocery store ad calling out the costs of milk and beef.

In Eau Claire, Wisconsin, food bank Feed My People said the number of families asking for help had doubled since the start of the year. Many food banks across the country have also seen demand increase, but in some of the unincorporated rural towns served by Feed My People, the bank’s delivery truck has sometimes drawn lines of more than 100 cars, according to organizers.

“Breathtaking,” said Suzanne Becker, the food bank’s executive director. “That’s a lot of families having to line up and get food.”

Arizona: Accommodation

Arizona’s unemployment rate is 3.7%, slightly higher than the national rate of 3.5%. But for state residents set to decide the close races between Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly and GOP nominee Blake Masters, and a showdown for governor pitting Republican Kari Lake against Democrat Katie Hobbs, housing can play a role. particularly important role.

Headline inflation is high for many Arizonans. This summer saw a 13% rise in prices in the Phoenix area from last summer — faster than the national pace of 8.2% and outpacing any other major U.S. metro area surveyed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics . And after a surge in population in the age of the pandemic, housing is a big part of that story. Data from Redfin showed Phoenix gained about 80,000 new residents in 2020, the largest net influx of any metro area at the time.

Swing State Midterm Election Voters Face Different Economic Issues
Construction of a new subdivision in Mesa, Arizona on November 8, 2021.Alexandra Buxbaum / Sipa USA via AP File

Growing demand pushed Phoenix home prices up 17% in August from a year ago, according to the S&P Dow Jones indices. With many potential buyers shut out of the market, many remain tenants in the city’s tight rental market, where government data shows rents have risen 21% over the past year.

When Himanshu Patil was asked to renew his apartment lease, the Arizona State University graduate student was shocked to see a 45% increase in his rent.

He signed anyway. Patil’s job at a Phoenix-based semiconductor company is helping him make ends meet, but he says a 3-4% pay raise barely mitigates the impact of rent inflation. With everything else getting more expensive, he feels stuck.

“I have a master’s degree and a good job and I still feel that way,” Patil said in a text.

As in many parts of the country, rising rents have forced many low-income residents out of their homes, often with few affordable options. But Arizona’s housing crisis is exacerbating the problem there.

“We’ve probably had one of the worst housing crises in the past two years that I’ve seen in my career,” said Mike Shore, president and CEO of Arizona-based HOM Inc. which manages rental assistance and vouchers. programs to help homeless people find permanent housing.

Shore says more people seeking help from his group recently have income and jobs, unlike previous cycles where job losses were the root cause of housing instability.

“Wages are not keeping pace with inflation on the rent side,” he said, adding that many working families were taking advantage of the organization’s housing programs for the first time. HOM said it helped 4,131 households in permanent supportive housing in October, a 48% jump from pre-pandemic levels.

Concerns over rising homelessness have highlighted housing issues in the gubernatorial race, with Lake and Hobbs trading barbs over how they would react. The number of homeless people in Arizona has increased by 35% since 2020, according to a report by the Maricopa Association of Governments earlier this year.

Pennsylvania: Jobs

Inflation is also an issue in Pennsylvania, where a tight Senate race between Democrat John Fetterman and Republican Mehmet Oz is entering the home stretch, and GOP nominee Doug Mastriano and Democrat Josh Shapiro are vying for the mansion of the governor. Prices in the Philadelphia area rose 8.1% between August and August 2021, roughly on par with the rest of the country. Pennsylvania’s strong labor market also looks similar to the story nationally, with state and nationwide unemployment rates back to or below pre-pandemic levels in September.

But even though unemployment in Pennsylvania remains a bit higher than the national average – 4.1% versus 3.5% – hiring appears to be slowing more sharply.

Swing State Midterm Election Voters Face Different Economic Issues
A mini market in Pittsburgh on June 15.Gene J. Puskar/AP File

The state saw one of the biggest declines in the rate of job creation from June to July, even as U.S. employers steadily sought to fill about 11 million positions. PGT Trucking, a company based in western Pennsylvania, deploys its fleet of flatbeds to transport various industrial products across the country.

“We’re certainly not being as aggressive with our assignments because of the uncertainty that we believe exists,” PGT Trucking president Gregg Troian said, adding that the company could stop hiring altogether if it does. there was “more deterioration”.

Like many employers, PGT Trucking tries to match its workforce to the expected demand for its services. Troian said freight volumes have “decline” but remain at levels where his company still has to turn down contracts – a reality he is willing to put up with for now, rather than aggressively hiring to do so. face.

Troian’s caution reflects a trend Federal Reserve officials are likely anticipating nationwide as they raise interest rates to curb inflation — most recently with another 0.75% hike on Wednesday — even if it risks increasing unemployment.

So far, PGT Trucking is not planning any layoffs, which is roughly in line with the national labor market, where workers are still generally able to choose opportunities. This leverage has given momentum to the labor movement across the country — and helped make unionization a campaign goal in Pennsylvania, where 12.9% of workers are unionized, compared to 10.3% in the US. national scale.


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