Never underestimate the power of having a job. With the Super Bowl coming up Sunday, RiseSmart decided to perform an analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data for the past 20 years to see if there was a relationship between unemployment rates and the teams that won the big game. We discovered that the team whose metropolitan area boasts the lower jobless rate has won 16 of the past 20 Super Bowls — an 80 percent success rate. Based on this historical correlation, the Green Bay Packers should be the favorite to defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV. Through November, the 2010 unemployment rate for the Green Bay metro area was 7.7 percent, compared to 8.1 percent for the Pittsburgh metro area. On January 27, 1991, the New York Giants beat the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXV, despite the New York City metro area having a higher 1990 jobless rate than Buffalo. After that game, however, the Super Bowl winning city had lower unemployment in 16 of the next 19 contests, including Super Bowl XLIV, in which New Orleans (6.7 percent 2009 unemployment) defeated Indianapolis (8.4 percent). Other facts of note:

  • On the six previous occasions that both teams’ metro areas have had unemployment greater than 5.5 percent — as is the case this year — the team from the metro area with the lower jobless rate has won in every instance.
  • This is the first Super Bowl in the past two decades in which both teams hail from metro areas with jobless rates exceeding 7 percent. On the four previous occasions that one team represented a city with 7+ percent unemployment, it lost the Super Bowl in every instance.
  • Since 1991, Super Bowl winning metro areas have had an average annual unemployment rate the prior year of 4.8 percent, compared to 5.4 percent for Super Bowl losing metro areas.

Here’s a chart that shows Super Bowl winners, losers and jobless rates over the past 20 years (click to enlarge):

In weighing the meaning of this analysis, correlation doesn’t imply causation. But you could argue that a fan base with lower unemployment is more likely to attend games, buy team gear, celebrate at sports bars and, ultimately, cheer their team on to victory. By contrast, a metro area that is struggling with high unemployment might have a subtle but insidious effect on its team’s morale. If nothing else, it’s an interesting coincidence. But I wouldn’t suggest betting against the Packers on Sunday.

Blog Topics