Betting on Super Bowl? Better Know Cities' Unemployment Rates

Teams from cities with lowest rates win more often; Green Bay is favored this year

So you’ve gotten the big-screen TV installed, and lined up enough snacks to feed an army. Everything’s ready for the Big Game except those friendly bets you make on your team. If you’d like to avoid losing big money in your wagers, according to RiseSmart, an outplacement and recruitment firm, you might want to consider the unemployment rate in your favorite team’s home city.

Crazy? Perhaps. But, according to RiseSmart, Department of Labor historical statistics have indicated the that the city with the lower jobless rate was the winner in 16 out of 20 past Super Bowl contests: an 80% accuracy rate. Put that up against your favorite bookie’s odds.

Taking that a step further, you should probably put your money on the Packers to win this year, since the unemployment rate in the Green Bay metro area for the previous year was a mere 7.7% compared with Pittsburgh’s 8.1%.

There are exceptions, of course. In 1991 the New York Giants took on the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXV and won, despite the fact that New York City had more people out of work than Buffalo. But after that, low unemployment carried the day, with 16 of the next 19 games being copped by the team with the lowest rate. This even held true for Super Bowl XLIV, when New Orleans, at 6.7% unemployment, beat Indianapolis (8.4%) 31-17.

A few more fun (or not) facts:

  • This is the first time in the last 20 years that both teams’ towns have unemployment exceeding 7%. In the four previous cases in which a team’s home town exceeded 7%, that team lost.
  • Six times previously, both teams had unemployment rates in their home towns greater than 5.5%. The lowest-rate town’s team won every time.
  • Since 1991, winning team towns have had an average annual rate of 4.8%; losers, an average of 5.4%.

Sanjay Sathe, RiseSmart’s CEO, said that of course unemployment in a team’s town doesn’t cause them to win or lose. But, he added, “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.” He concluded by saying, “Never underestimate the power of having a job.

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