A Telling Map of Job Losses

Slate’s Moneybox has an interactive map that shows job creation and loss throughout the US for the past two years. Watching it flow through each month’s up and down definitely made the employment situation in the country clearer to me. Like any great visualization image and the legend make it very clear what’s happening. Here’s Slate’s explanation of how they created this:

Using the Labor Department’s local area unemployment statistics, Slate presents the recession as told by unemployment numbers for each county in America. Because the data are not seasonally adjusted for natural employment cycles throughout the year, the numbers you see show the change in the number of people employed compared with the same month in the previous year. Blue dots represent a net increase in jobs, while red dots indicate a decrease. The larger the dot, the greater the number of jobs gained or lost.

The country begins a awash with blue (job growth) in January 2006:

moneybox job map blue

By February 2009 job loss looks like:

moneybox job map red

Slate is using readily available public data, but presenting it in a much more digestible form than what you see in this table of similar data from the Labor Department:

unemployement data

The table is good for diving in to see a specific data point, but the map draws us out and shows us a larger story in motion. I hope that story goes back to blue soon.

At Where 2.0 in May we will hear from a number of speakers who create these types of maps. Matthew Ericson of the New York Times will discuss the maps they used in their election coverage and Michal Migurski of Stamen Design will be explore data sources for maps. Registration is still open; you can use whr09rdr for 25% off.

  • Nice post. Well, the maps are nice, what’s happening… not so nice.

  • Looks like a bunch of red nukes hit us, and they sorta did.

  • Wait…I meant to say ‘confirmed weapons of mass destruction’

  • Mark

    Michigan is red in both maps… ugh.

  • Cliff

    Typo: “The country begins a awash with blue (job growth) in January 2006” should say “…January 2007”.

    Also, do you think the choice of colours blue and red is meant to imply political color-coded blame for the job losses?

  • Mike

    I still find it amusing that Republican-leaning states are identified on election result maps as “red states”. Back in the Cold War days that would not have gone over well…

  • It will be interesting to see if these maps track the impact of the stimulus package.

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  • Things that matter, at last.


  • should we commend detroit for its consistency or its foresight? ahead of the curve or maybe trying to tell us something?

  • Zebulon
  • AR Forcke

    Getting back to the possible partisan-ship in the use of red and blue… Actually, map makers/data visualization folks should take note of the fact that the color red is a highly inappropriate color to use – especially on the Internet. 10% of the male population is red/green color-blind… meaning that when they look at Red data, they see nothing but shades of grey. The best color combination to use is BLUE and YELLOW. So you get 2 benefits for 1 small change – you make the information usable to another 10% of the population AND you take the potential for political mis-use out of the equation. WOW – that’s simple…

  • Anonymous

    Wouldn’t this be more informative if the aboslute values used were divided by population size. Did the East coast get decimated, or is it just high popluation density with net job loss? Serioulsy.

  • Maybe it’s my desktop display, but I’d love to see what’s happening with the southern 1/3 of the country.

  • benm

    @Zebulon: that’s an interesting comment thread. AFAICT it’s discussing a different (unsourced) map.

  • anonymous

    I do wonder how this map relates to the hiring of H1Bs as well as loss of jobs that are hold by H1Bs. That would make a very interesting story.

  • But you could have shown an almost identical density map with just populations. What is relevant is the whether there is a concentration in unemployment rate or growth rates in jobs.

    The only interesting, if hardly unknown, information is the problem in Michigan(?) where job losses happened even during the general growth in employment since 2006.

    What someone really needs to do is show job growth over time, using the techniques Hans Rossler showed at TED. Enrich this with filters for types of jobs and we could get a deeper experience of where jobs are being created/lost over time.

  • Btw, what about those who have lost their job? Thankfully, there are some websites where people who have been affected by job loss in the current recession could share their anxieties and problems with others having faced similar problems in the past. One website that is interesting is http://www.angstcorner.com.

    I particularly like their punch bag section where one can vent out their anger against their tormentor by virtually ‘punching’ them with a weapon of choice ! That is quite hilarious. Also visited their Forum section where affinity groups can create their own forums