Strange Criteria for Picking a Super Bowl Winner


This week, there’s a lot of talk about the passing prowess of Aaron Rodgers and the closing speed of Troy Polamalu. But if you’re looking to capitalize on a friendly Super Bowl wager this weekend, it seems unemployment rate may be as important as anything in predicting a winner. Yes, it’s bizarre, but the team from the city with the lowest jobless rate has won 16 of the last 20 games. RiseSmart reports:

Could a city’s economic prosperity, as measured by employment level, make a difference in its team’s chances of winning the Super Bowl?  Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that it does.  According to a new analysis by RiseSmart, 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.

“Unemployment is the No. 1 issue in America today, and that will be true on Super Bowl Sunday as well,” said Sanjay Sathe, CEO of RiseSmart, a provider of next-generation outplacement and recruitment solutions. 

“In weighing the meaning of this analysis, correlation doesn’t imply causation, of course. 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,” Sathe said.

Super Bowl: Winner – Jobless Rate; Loser – Jobless Rate
1991: NY Giants – 5.5; Buffalo – 5.3
1992: Washington – 4.6; Buffalo – 7.2
1993: Dallas – 6.9; Buffalo – 7.5
1994: Dallas – 6.1; Buffalo – 6.8
1995: San Francisco – 5.9; San Diego – 7.1
1996: Dallas – 4.8; Pittsburgh – 6.0
1997: Green Bay – 3.4; New England – 4.1
1998: Denver – 2.9; Green Bay – 3.3
1999: Denver – 2.9; Atlanta – 3.3
2000: St. Louis – 3.5; Tennessee – 2.9
2001: Baltimore – 3.8; NY Giants – 4.4
2002: New England – 3.6; St. Louis – 4.6
2003: Tampa Bay – 5.6; Oakland – 6.2
2004: New England – 5.7; Carolina – 6.3
2005: New England – 5.0; Philadelphia – 5.1
2006: Pittsburgh – 5.2; Seattle – 5.0
2007: Indianapolis – 4.4; Chicago – 4.5
2008: NY Giants – 4.4; New England – 4.1
2009: Pittsburgh – 5.1; Arizona – 5.3
2010: New Orleans – 6.7; Indianapolis – 8.4

Note: Jobless rates are for year prior to Super Bowl year.  Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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