Donald Trump ran for re-election pledging to rapidly restore a pre-pandemic U.S. economy he called the best ever — and lost in part because that promise didn’t ring true in key industrial battlegrounds.

The problem Joe Biden is inheriting is that in places like Michigan that were crucial to his victory, Trump’s promised bounce-back is looking ever more like a painful grind. Even amid progress toward developing a vaccine, which on Monday was lifting the mood among investors, jobs continue to vanish.

Just how much impact a gloomy economy had on the result of a bitterly fought election is still difficult to say. But there’s evidence that economics played a role in the erosion of support for Trump in some key demographics and regions that got hit hard by the downturn.

Nationally, exit polls show Trump’s appeal waning among most income groups, a pattern that played out starkly in Michigan.

In 2016, exit polls had Trump ahead with every income group in the state, except those earning less than $30,000 a year. This time the initial data from those same exit polls, conducted by Edison Research for national television networks, had Biden prevailing in all groups bar those earning between $100,000 and $200,000 – and even there, Trump’s margin narrowed sharply.

Across the U.S., counties that Biden won tended to have been hit harder economically by the pandemic, according to analysis by the Economic Innovation Group in Washington.

That’s partly because Biden counties were predominantly urban, and more dependent on struggling service industries, than the rural ones where Trump’s support is strongest. But it also held true in Michigan. The counties Biden won suffered a spike in unemployment that averaged 4.7 percentage points in the 12 months through August, compared with 3.5 points for Trump counties, according to the EIG.

‘We Don’t Know Yet’
For Biden, the worry is that the national recovery is slowing as a winter surge in Covid-19 cases hits — and that things aren’t getting much better in politically-important places like Michigan.

Long before the pandemic “Michigan’s economy had slowed down very substantially in the Trump years,” says Charles Ballard, an economist at Michigan State University. The state of 10 million people created only 20,000 jobs last year, he points out. As of September it had lost more than 440,000 this year — one-tenth of those who were in work at the start of the year.

And jobs are still disappearing. In Sturgis, near the state’s southern border, the local Kroger supermarket is shutting down for good on Nov. 28, with 73 people losing their jobs after what the company says have been years of unprofitability. North of Grand Rapids, in the town of Sparta, auto parts company Tenneco has announced it will lay off 121 people by June 2021, as it closes a piston ring plant.

In the Detroit suburb of Troy, medical IT firm Ascension Technologies is closing a customer service facility and laying off 223 workers by Thanksgiving. For the town, it’s a blow that comes hard on the heels of the pandemic.

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