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Undecided votes in swing states may turn on jobs, wages

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, followed by Republican nominee Donald Trump, walk toward NBC moderator Lester Holt after the first presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., on Sept. 26, 2016.
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Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, followed by Republican nominee Donald Trump, walk toward NBC moderator Lester Holt after the first presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., on Sept. 26, 2016.

With millions of voters still unsure on how to vote in this year's presidential race, many may decide on jobs and wages.

On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that nonfarm payrolls increased 156,000 in September and the unemployment rate ticked up to 5 percent. Job growth was below expectations, but just slightly, and economists said the labor market continued to show slow, steady growth.

Despite an overall improvement in the national employment data, job markets in swing states have fared differently. So have gains or losses in the size of the average paycheck.

That means that Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton may fare better in states where job and wage growth has been stronger and voters believe they've benefited from having a Democrat in the White House.

Republican nominee Donald Trump, on the other hand, has a better chance getting traction on pocketbook issues in states where employment and paychecks have been shrinking.

To better assess the impact of jobs and wages on next month's vote, CNBC took a look at the data to see which way those economic forces may influence the final tally.

Some of those swing states will be more important than others. Just four of those "battleground" states, Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina and Virginia come with a combined 66 electoral votes, or 24 percent of the 270 needed to win the election.


While the national jobless rate has fallen in half since the depths of the Great Recession, job growth has been uneven in the battleground states.

Most such states have seen their jobless rates fall below the national average, but the change in conditions over the last 12 months varies widely. Unemployment rates have risen in Iowa, Pennsylvania and Texas, while job prospects have strengthened in North Carolina, Georgia, Michigan and Florida.

Both campaigns have also pledged to boost wages for American households, a theme that will play better in some battleground states than others.

Wage growth largely stalled nationally since the end of the Great Recession until the median household income began rising again last year. But workers in some states are still waiting for a raise.

Among the swing states with the biggest electoral vote counts, North Carolina, Ohio and Florida have seen wages increase in the last 12 months, while the average weekly wage has fallen in Texas and Michigan.