Unemployment rates in the key battleground states of Florida and Ohio have fallen sharply, according to a report released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Florida’s unemployment rate fell by 0.4 percent to 9 percent from February to March, according to the new report.
In the last year, the state’s jobless rate has dropped from 10.7 percent in March 2011, the third fastest decline in the country.
Florida’s jobless rate remains above the national unemployment rate, which stood at 8.2 percent in March. While the national jobless rate dropped this month, job growth was sluggish and the declining unemployment rate was in large part due to workers not seeking employment.
Falling unemployment in Florida and Ohio appear to be helping President Obama’s prospects in the two states, which could decide the 2012 election. The two have a bounty of electoral votes at stake between them, and Florida famously cost Al Gore the presidency in 2000. Four years later, the election between then-President George W. Bush and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) came down to Ohio.
According to the Real Clear Politics average of polls, Obama now leads presumed GOP nominee Mitt Romney by 4 percent in Florida. A string of polls from January showed Romney with a 3 to 5 percent advantage in the Sunshine State.
The president has stretched his lead over Romney to nearly 7 percent in Ohio, according to the RCP average of polls.
Falling unemployment also appears to be boosting Obama in Michigan and Wisconsin.
Michigan saw the greatest year-over-year unemployment rate decline in the country, dropping from 10.5 percent to 8.5 percent. The president holds an 11 percent lead over Romney there.
And in Wisconsin, where Republicans are fighting recall battles to maintain control of the state legislature, unemployment has dropped from 7.6 percent to 6.8 percent, one of the best rates in the country. The president leads in Wisconsin by an average of nearly 12 percent.
By some estimates, Obama will need to win about half of the electoral votes supplied by the swing states of Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Virginia, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Iowa, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire if he is to secure a second term.
The president won all of those states in 2008, and if Florida, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin tip his way, Obama would only need to win one additional battleground state.
Obama currently holds a small RCP average of poll leads in Virginia, Nevada and Pennsylvania, and has double-digit leads in Colorado and New Mexico.