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.