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The State of the Economy...and the Presidential Election

Florida. Political lore has it that people vote their wallets; in large part, they choose a leadership team based on their immediate sense of economic well-being and confidence about the future. Peace and prosperity tend to favor an incumbent, while a distressed economy can spell trouble for a candidate's reelection bid. What follows are snapshots of the economic conditions in the 10 states with the most votes in the Electoral College, which elects the president and vice president.

In Florida the recession cut deeper than in many places. But the state is also accelerating out of it much more sharply.

Job creation has picked up briskly during the past five months, according to David Orr, senior vice president for economic research at First Union Bank, based in Charlotte, N.C.

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In the first half of 1992, Florida created jobs at an annual rate of a very vigorous 6.2 percent.

Unemployment has only stabilized, however.

It has edged down slightly from 8.7 percent in January to 8.5 percent in June - still well above the national average. The reason, says Mr. Orr, is that people have been entering the Florida work force nearly as fast as jobs are created.

The new jobs now appear to be outpacing the work-force growth, he adds, so joblessness should fall.

Even if the jobs numbers imply optimism, says University of Florida political scientist Stephen Craig, "I would be surprised if the voters in Florida have realized that."

The news is still dominated by state problems rooted in the economy.

Yet Florida has a history as Bush country. Mr. Bush won 62 percent of the vote in 1988.

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At the presidential level, Floridians start with a heavy predisposition to vote Republican.

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