After a long, painful slog trying to make ends meet, American workers' paychecks are finally getting bigger with wages showing their biggest gain in seven years in the October jobs report.
But the story in crucial swing states is much more mixed, versus the 2.8 percent national gain.
The uneveness in battleground states will play a big part in voters' decisions Tuesday about which candidate to send to the White House.
Among the critical swing states, the biggest gains have come in North Carolina (5.9 percent), New Hampshire (5.5 percent), Virginia (3.3 percent), Ohio (3.2 percent) and Arizona (3.1 percent) in the 12 months ended in September, the latest data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The states' data is tallied separately from the monthly national jobs report.
Wage growth has been slower in Iowa (2.1 percent), Florida (1.9 percent), Pennsylvania (1.9 percent), Maine (0.6 percent), Nevada (0.3 percent) and Colorado, where wages have ticked down by 0.9 percent.
For the last year, as the presidential campaign heated up, the monthly BLS numbers show a U.S. job market that, overall, continues to improve after a wave of layoffs wiped out millions of paychecks in the depths of the Great Recession.
The latest reading on U.S. employment Friday showed that another 161,000 new jobs were created last month, sending the unemployment rate back down a tenth of a percent to 4.9 percent. Revisions to the past two monthly reports added a total of 44,000 new jobs to those initial estimates.
Though job creation was a bit slower than expected, wages posted strong gains. As the labor market has tightened, employers are raising wages to find and keep good workers.
Last year, the median household income rose by 5.2 percent — the first significant gain in more than a decade.
Those national "headline" numbers show a U.S. job market that continues to improve.
Still, for most Americans, the recovery of the last seven years has been a long trek. And for many, the recovery hasn't yet arrived. To see where, you have to look deep into Bureau of Labor Statistics data that is often overlooked.
Voters will decide next Tuesday which candidate would provide better work options. But many will make that judgment based less on the campaign rhetoric than on how hard it is to find a good job where they live.
The job outlook will play an especially strong role in the handful of states where voter polls show the tightest races. Some states will be more important than others. Just four of them, Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina and Virginia come with a combined 66 electoral votes, or 24 percent of the 270 needed to win the election.