Seven battleground states: Does economy help Obama or Romney?

Seven states have emerged as battlegrounds that may well determine the 2012 presidential election. Here's a look at seven battleground states and how their economic situation is shaping the presidential election:

6. Virginia

Adrin Snider/The Daily Press/AP/File
Ann Romney greets well-wishers during a stop in Williamsburg, Va., on Friday, Oct. 26, 2012. Of all the battleground states, Virginia is the most vulnerable to the 'fiscal cliff,' because more than a quarter of its economy is supported by federal spending.

When it comes to job growth, Virginia reflects the national employment pattern perhaps better than any of the other battleground states. It's smack in the middle – No. 25 among the states – in terms of job creation over the past year (tied with Michigan). It has seen a small decrease in manufacturing (3,300 jobs lost) and an offsetting rise in health and education (16,300 jobs gained).

Like Iowa, Virginia started the recovery with an advantage. It avoided much of the Great Recession, so unemployment never reached the national highs. In September, Virginia's rate was 5.9 percent vs. 7.8 percent nationally. It has regained nearly three-quarters of the jobs it lost during the recession.

But the state is more vulnerable than almost all states to the so-called "fiscal cliff" – the federal spending cuts that loom if Congress can't agree on budget cuts. Federal spending buoys more than a quarter of Virginia's economy. The US government directly employs nearly 5 percent of workers in the state and, indirectly, far more private-sector employees who depend on government contracts for their livelihood. By one estimate, the fiscal cliff would eliminate 200,000 jobs – more than the state lost during the Great Recession and about 4 percent of Virginia's employment base.

The state government ended fiscal 2012 in June with a budget surplus of $448 billion, which meant state government workers got a 3 percent bonus. But even small cutbacks in federal spending will put a future damper on an economy with so-so growth.

Advantage: A statistical tie.

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