In Swing States, Rising Jobless Rates Add to Election Heat


Unemployment rates rose in July from June in almost all U.S. states, including those where the presidential election fight is expected to be fiercest, according to data released on Friday by the Labor Department.

Altogether, jobless rates rose in 44 states, dropped in Idaho, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia, and were unchanged in four states in July from June.

As the country moves closer to November's election day, voters' attention is squarely focused on the economy and a national jobless rate hovering above 8 percent.

Because of the unique U.S. political system where states cast electoral votes for president, the contest between President Barack Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney is heating up in about six states where polling suggests voters are undecided.

In those states - Nevada, Florida, Colorado, Wisconsin, Ohio, Virginia and Iowa - jobless rates all rose in July. Moreover, Nevada again had the highest rate in the nation at 12 percent, while Florida's 8.8 percent and Colorado's 8.3 percent were both at or above the July national rate of 8.3 percent.

Not only is Florida the perennial battleground state, this year it is home to the Republican convention where Romney will officially become the party's candidate.

Michigan is considered a battleground state that is only leaning toward Obama. In July, its jobless rate shot up to 9 percent from 8.6 percent the prior month.

Iowa is considered a toss-up between Obama and Romney and the president recently made a three-day visit there trying to energize the independents and Republicans he won over in 2008. Although the state's jobless rate remains low, its increase to 5.3 percent from 5.1 percent last month could raise questions in the state about his record on the economy.

Meanwhile, in North Carolina, the rate rose to 9.6 percent in July from 9.4 percent. The Democrats will hold their national convention to rally around Obama next month in the swing state, which is expected to go to Romney.

July's rate was 8.3 percent in Arizona, 8.2 percent in Indiana and 7.2 percent in Missouri - also all battlegrounds expected to vote for Romney.