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I have heard many of the political pundits say that if the unemployment pictures does not improve we can expect one or more of the houses of congress to change hands, reverting back to a Republican majority. Not knowing what these predictions were based on I did some research.
I wanted to know what the unemployment trend was from 1949 to 2009. This data is available at the Bureau of Labor Statistics at http://data.bls.gov for any period you wish to look at. Taking this time frame I compared which parties were a majority in the Senate, the House of Representatives and which party held the Presidency.
The results to me were surprising.
In 1953 the Republicans gain a majority in the Senate and won the Presidency. Unemployment was on the rise.
In 1955 the Democrats won back the Senate. Unemployment was on a decline.
In 1961 the Democrats won back the Presidency and at that time unemployment had been rising and reached a peak of about 6 percent.
The Democrats held everything until 1969 when the Presidency reverted to the Republicans. From 1961 to 1968 unemployment had been in a free fall dropping below 4 percent. By 1969 though, there was a spike taking it back to above 4.5 percent. To me this did not seem to be that bad.
In 1977 the Democrats held everything again, when they won back the Presidency. Unemployment was in a decline at this time.
1981 Reagan won the office of President and the Senate was taken back by the Republican Party. Unemployment had been rapidly rising. It peaked in December of 1982 at 10.82 percent. This is the only data point that compares to what we have going on now. It rose under President Carter and continually rising under Reagan until the start of his second year. Looking at the trend now at the start of 2010 we may see history repeat itself with a decline starting.
In 1987 with a steady decrease in unemployment for 5 years, the Democrats took back the Senate.
1993 when President Clinton won back the Presidency, the unemployment rate was in a decline and it had been declining since the middle of 1991. The quote “It’s the economy stupid” was a little late.
The Republicans surprised everyone when in 1995 when they took both the House and the Senate. It is even more surprising that unemployment had been on a constant decline.
Unemployment was on the rise again when George W. Bush became President. The Senate was also taken back by the Democrats. That was 2001. So which party was being favored at this time?
The Democrats won back both houses of congress in 2007, unemployment was rising at the time this happened and we were well on our way into a recession.
Of course with unemployment still rising in 2009, the Presidency was back in the hands of the Democrats.
It was a surprise to me that the democrats held sway over both house of congress for a majority of the last 60 years, and the Presidency was a win for Republicans during that time by a smaller margin.
The chart I made is interesting to me as it shows that control switched hands some of the time when unemployment was on the rise and sometimes not. It was not enough to say that you can guarantee a sweep for one political party if you have high unemployment. In fact there were cases when everything was going great when control swapped hands.