Unemployment vs. Reagan Disapproval Rate, 1981-1989
"It is not an exaggeration to say that the rise and fall of the unemployment rate more than any other factor shaped general public reaction to Reagan in his first term. As unemployment rose from 7.5 % at the start of 1981 to more than 8.6% by January 1982, his job disapproval rating rose from 18% to 40% over this period.
By the end of 1982, unemployment stood at nearly 11% and 50% of the public was telling Gallup that it disapproved of how the president was handling his job. Fortunately for Reagan, 1983 saw unemployment begin to decline. By year's end, his approval scores began to recover, setting the stage for his successful run for reelection in 1984.
Throughout Reagan's second term, unemployment rates continued to decline, falling below 6% by September 1987. However, Reagan did not reap the political benefit of higher approval ratings. Opinion of the president fell sharply in December 1986 in response to the Iran-Contra scandal, and the correspondence between views of Reagan job performance and the unemployment rate all but disappeared."
Source: Andrew Kohut, Jodie T. Allen, and Richard Auxie, "It's All About Jobs, Except When It's Not: Unemployment and Presidential Approval Ratings 1981-2009," pewresearch.org, Jan. 26, 2010