Tag Archives: unemployment rate

200+ things you need to know about unemployment in the US, all presented on one insightful dashboard

There are 208 charts on the dashboard below. Each one is loaded with information from the Bureau of Labor statistics. Check it out, you’re bound to learn something you didn’t know before you came here.

The unemployment insight dashboard is now updated with May’s unemployment figures from the BLS. The unemployment rate dropped from 9.9% to 9.7%, in part due to the fact that approximately 200,000 people stopped looking for work and stopped being counted by the BLS as unemployed.

The long-term unemployment population, those out of work for 6 months or more, grew by an additional 47,000 people and account for 46% of all unemployed. That’s the equivalent to all the people (men, women, and children) in the entire state of Washington.

Note: click the picture below to bring up a large version. Then click again to get a crystal clear look at the dashboard.

Dashboard of Joblessness in the U.S.-May 2010

What everybody ought to know about unemployment in the U.S.

The unemployment insight dashboard is now updated with April’s unemployment figures from the BLS. While the unemployment rate is essentially unchanged, the nasty trend in the long-term unemployment continues.

The numbers for April show the long-term unemployed group grew by another 200,000. Now, more than 6.7MM Americans, that’s the equivalent to the entire state of Washington (men, women, and children), have been jobless for more than 6 months. This population now accounts for 46% of all unemployed.

Also, if you’re wondering why the unemployment rate increased despite the fact that the number of people who found new jobs increased, a good explainer can be found here, at the WSJ blog.

In my update last month I said I’d try to get more insights about the long-term unemployed. It turns out there’s a fair amount of information for this group, but the data are updated annually, not monthly. Nonetheless, in the coming weeks I will generate some supplemental posts analyzing the long-term unemployed from the new found data. Until then, here’s a link to a story about the long-term unemployed in the Huffington Post.

I welcome your comments, both positive and negative. I especially want to hear your thoughts on improving this dashboard. In particular, I’m considering getting rid of and/or dramatically altering the bar chart on the left side of the dash showing the number of un/underemployed Americans. I think the scaling of the chart makes differences in the blue bars hard to pick up, I also don’t like the lack of context in the chart. Perhaps indexing it to 1 year ago might be better.

If you’d like to print out or save a copy of a beautiful, high-res, 11 x 17 pdf version of this dashboard, just click here.
Dashboard of Joblessness in the U.S.-April 2010

Unemployment Insight Dashboard for March 2010 shows troubling trend in long-term unemployed

This month’s update shows continued growth in the long-term unemployed population who now number 6.5MM. That’s an all-time high and equivalent to the entire population of Arizona (men, women, and children) being out of work. What will it take to start seeing reductions in this group? Have their jobs disappeared for good? In the coming weeks I will try to answer these important questions by working with the Bureau of Labor Statistics to see if I can get more granular data about this population. Until then, you can find a good story about the long-term jobless here.

In addition, the industry section on the bottom right side of the dashboard shows many industries reversing the trend of increasing weekly work hours. For the last couple of months this section has been filled with blue bars showing growth, but this month, most of the bars are gray, showing contraction in average weekly hours of production. What does this mean?

I welcome your comments, both positive and negative. I especially want to hear your thoughts on improving this dashboard. In particular, I’m considering getting rid of and/or dramatically altering the bar chart on the left side of the dash showing the number of un/underemployed Americans. I think the scaling of the chart makes differences in the blue bars hard to pick up, I also don’t like the lack of context in the chart. Perhaps indexing it to 1 year ago might be better.

If you’d like to print out or save a copy of a beautiful, high-res, 11 x 17 pdf version of this dashboard, just click here.

Thanks.
Dashboard of Joblessness in the U.S.-March 2010

My Unemployment Dashboard ranks #1 in Google search. See why.

It’s taken me about 5 months to get there, but thanks to your help, my award-winning Unemployment Dashboard ranks #1 according to Google. I also rank #1 for the words, ‘Unemployment Insights’. I suspect the postings featuring my dashboard over at chartporn and vizworld have helped quite a bit. Thanks Chartporn & VizWorld! BTW, if you haven’t checked out either site, you should, they are filled with many excellent visualizations.

There’s a lot going on this month in the industry index section on the bottom right hand side of the dashboard. Many industries are seeing strong and continued growth in the amount of hours their employees are working. Expansion in these figures is a leading indicator of hiring down the road. In addition, to provide you with a bit more context, I’ve expanded the time horizon on the industry index section from the last 6 months to the last 12 months.

Something else I noticed this month is the divergence between the unemployment rate and underemployment rate (upper left-hand chart). The unemployment rate held steady, but the underemployment rate rose 1.8%, from 16.5% to 16.8%. That’s an additional half-million underemployed Americans. If you’d like to bone up on the difference between underemployment and unemployment, check out this link.

One other point worth noting is this month’s decrease in the percentage of long term unemployed. For only the second time this year, the percentage of those unemployed for more than 6 months fell. Granted, the decrease was very small, .3% or 50,000 workers.

I welcome your comments, both positive and negative. I especially want to hear your thoughts on improving this dashboard. In particular, I’m considering getting rid of and/or dramatically altering the bar chart on the left side of the dash showing the number of un/underemployed Americans. I think the scaling of the chart makes differences in the blue bars hard to pick up, I also don’t like the lack of context in the chart. Perhaps indexing it to 1 year ago might be better.

If you’d like to print out or save a copy of a beautiful, high-res, 11 x 17 pdf version of this dashboard, just click here.

Thanks.

Dashboard of Joblessness in the U.S.-Feb 2010

Unemployment insight dashboard for Jan 2010 shows 41% of all unemployed, 6.3MM people, out of work more than 6 months.

My dashboard of unemployment in the U.S. is updated with data from January 2010.

I’ve added sparklines to the Demographic section in the middle of the dashboard. Now, rather than just seeing where unemployment stands this month for a particular demographic segment, you can see where it’s been over the last 12 months. The sparklines on the left side of the demographic section all represent the unemployment rate over the last 12 months. The sparklines on the right show the percentage of total unemployed each segment represents over the last 12 months. For example, a value of 25% in the “% of total unemployed” column for the “White Women” segment means that White Women make up 25% of all unemployed.

It’s interesting to see the huge drop, 9.5%, in underemployment this month. Check out the small chart in the upper right hand side of the dashboard. We went from 9.1MM underemployed in Dec to 8.2MM in Jan 2010. That’s the first big drop in underemployment in at least 12 months.

The long-term unemployed population, however, continues to grow. Another 200,000 Americans added to the pile of 6.1MM Americans who’ve been jobless for more than 6 months. Those long-term unemployed are equal to the entire population of Tennessee. The NYTimes had an indepth story on the long term unemployed, they call them “The New Poor.” You can find that story here.

New data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics will be released this Friday, the 5th, so subscribe to my blog and you’ll get an email notifying you when the revised dashboard is complete.

As always, your feedback is welcome.

Click on the image to enlarge.

If you’d like a beautiful 11 X 17, crystal clear pdf of my dashboard, click here.

BTW, this dashboard was done using Excel 2007.

Dashboard of Joblessness in the U.S.-Jan 2010

The Best insights into December’s Unemployment figures updated Now in this award winning information dashboard.

Last month the BLS revised their November 2009 unemployment number from a loss of 11,000 jobs to a gain of 4,000. That’s the first monthly gain in two years.

But December’s data came in showing job losses of 85,000, with the official unemployment rate holding steady at 10%. The underemployment rate moved up slightly, from 17.2% in Nov. to 17.3% in Dec. The most disturbing trend I’m seeing in the numbers is the long-term unemployed, those people out of work for more than 27 weeks. This group of out of work Americans now accounts for 40% of all unemployed people , or 6.1 million people. This group has grown by 135% in the last 12 months. Getting these long-term unemployed back to work is going to take a very long time.

Download a beautiful, high-resolution 11 X 17 pdf version here.

Dec 2009 dash-large

Dashboard of Unemployment in the U.S.

November’s Real unemployment above 17% and 27 million Americans out of work, but there are bright spots. My dashboard shows you where things are starting to improve.

My award winning dashboard is at the bottom of this post

Last month real unemployment stood at 17.2% and 26.9 million Americans were out of work.

Right now I hear my savvy readers saying, “Wait a minute! The unemployment rate is 10%, and only 15 million Americans are out of work.” To you I say, ‘yes’, that’s one way of looking at things. In fact, there are at least five ways to look at the unemployment rate. That’s because the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports unemployment 5 different ways. The official unemployment number is reported in their U-3 statistic, which they adopted as the official rate in 1994. Before that, the official statistic was U-5. Here’s a link to a pdf from the BLS detailing the history of their different ways to measure unemployment.

The U-3 statistic includes unemployed people 25 years old or older expressed as a percentage of the civilian labor force ages 25 and up. It doesn’t include “discouraged workers”. Discouraged workers are people who want to and “be available for work and have searched for work in the prior year, even though they are not currently looking for a job because they feel their search would be in vain.” I wonder if all the out of work autoworkers in Detroit who lost their jobs a year ago are measured in the U-3 statistic.

Moving to U-5. The U-5 measure includes the “marginally attached” workers, those people who have given up looking for work for reasons like child-care or transportation problems. These people could take a job if other things happened, like they got day care, or could catch a bus or a train to work.

Last, but not least, the U-6 indicator. It represents the people in U-3 through U-5 plus all people working part time for economic reasons, aka, underemployed workers. Here’s a quote from the paper from the BLS that I site above, “U-6 provides the largest conceptual break with the official measure of unemployment; it is expected to be useful to those who want a single measure to represent a general view of the degree to which existing and potential labor resources are not being utilized.” I like to start with that figure to help get things into focus and perspective–27MM out of 156MM Americans are out of work or working part-time and are underemployed.

The November update is showing lots of interesting things going on with the long-term unemployed (27 weeks or more). Also, be sure to check out the Industry section on the bottom right side of the dashboard where things are changing fast. Seventy percent of industries covered in the section reported an increase in weekly hours of production for November. Here’s the trend for the percentage of industries (there are forty reported by the BLS) seeing an increase in hourly production over the last 12 months, industry_bar. All of the statistics I report are seasonally adjusted, so this isn’t a pre Christmas bump.

Download beautiful, high-resolution 11 X 17 pdf version here.

final_dash_Nov_2009

The Best Insights into U.S. unemployment, revealed in this Dashboard

At precisely 8:30am, on the first Friday of each month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases its Employment Situation report, the most anticipated report for stock, bond, and currency traders in the world. The report is analyzed by a wide variety of sources like CNN, WSJ, Bloomberg, NYTimes, Economy.com, AP, and MSNBC.

The Economic Situation report is critical because it covers the single most important factor in the world’s economy, employment in the U.S. Put simply, if U.S. consumers are losing their jobs, spending will decrease. And since household spending accounts for more than two-thirds of the U.S.’s economy, any change in spending will have an impact on the rest of the world’s economy.

The Economic Situation report is important for another reason. According to Bernard Baumohl, author of the book, The Secrets of Economic Indicators, “Experts have a difficult time trying to predict the unemployment figures because so little other information is out yet for that month.”

With so much riding on this one report, the Business Intelligence Guru thought it the perfect area to apply his information visualization and analytical skills. After all, the data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics are pretty lifeless–just a bunch of numbers in twenty different data tables. Trying to identify trends in such raw form data is difficult and time consuming. When high quality info viz is properly applied to such data, however, the fog lifts and insights come shining through.

The BLS tables contain different looks at employment and unemployment like:

  • Employment status by sex and age
  • Employment status by race, sex, and age
  • Employment status by education level
  • Unemployment by reason for unemployment
  • Unemployment by duration of unemployment
  • Average weekly hours of work
  • Average earnings (hourly/weekly) by type of industry
  • Monthly changes in employment

The challenge and opportunity here is to provide a clear, consolidated, and insightful view of related and relevant data from the BLS. The Economic Situation report for July 2009 contains nearly 1,000 words. The data tables in the report add approximately 300 data points to the document. But neither the text nor web version of the report on BLS’ website contain a single graph. It doesn’t take a Business Intelligence Guru to know that this is a ripe opportunity for a well-designed dashboard to shed light on. And so, The Business Intelligence Guru presents you with the “Insights into Unemployment in the United States” dashboard for July 2009.

The Busines Intelligence Guru's Dashboard of U.S. Unemployment

The Business Intelligence Guru's Dashboard of U.S. Unemployment

I intend to update this dashboard the first Friday of each month, shortly after the BLS releases the report, so check back then for timely updates.

Lastly, I’m always on the lookout for ways to improve my work, so feel free to leave suggestions and criticism.

Thanks.

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The Best Insights into U.S. unemployment, revealed in this Award Winning Dashboard

At precisely 8:30am, on the first Friday of each month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases its Employment Situation report, the most anticipated report for stock, bond, and currency traders in the world. The report is analyzed by a wide variety of sources like CNN, WSJ, Bloomberg, NYTimes, Economy.com, AP, and MSNBC.

The Economic Situation report is critical because it covers the single most important factor in the world’s economy, employment in the U.S. Put simply, if U.S. consumers are losing their jobs, spending will decrease. And since household spending accounts for more than two-thirds of the U.S.’s economy, any change in spending will have an impact on the rest of the world’s economy.

The Economic Situation report is important for another reason. According to Bernard Baumohl, author of the book, The Secrets of Economic Indicators, “Experts have a difficult time trying to predict the unemployment figures because so little other information is out yet for that month.”

With so much riding on this one report, the Business Intelligence Guru thought it the perfect area to apply his information visualization and analytical skills. After all, the data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics are pretty lifeless–just a bunch of numbers in twenty different data tables. Trying to identify trends in such raw form data is difficult and time consuming. When high quality info viz is properly applied to such data, however, the fog lifts and insights come shining through.

The BLS tables contain different looks at employment and unemployment like:

  • Employment status by sex and age
  • Employment status by race, sex, and age
  • Employment status by education level
  • Unemployment by reason for unemployment
  • Unemployment by duration of unemployment
  • Average weekly hours of work
  • Average earnings (hourly/weekly) by type of industry
  • Monthly changes in employment

The challenge and opportunity here is to provide a clear, consolidated, and insightful view of related and relevant data from the BLS. The Economic Situation report for July 2009 contains nearly 1,000 words. The data tables in the report add approximately 300 data points to the document. But neither the text nor web version of the report on BLS’ website contain a single graph. It doesn’t take a Business Intelligence Guru to know that this is a ripe opportunity for a well-designed dashboard to shed light on. And so, The Business Intelligence Guru presents you with the “Insights into Unemployment in the United States” dashboard for July 2009.

Clicking the image of the dashboard (below) will get you a high-resolution version of it.

Dashboard of U.S. Unemployment

Dashboard of U.S. Unemployment

Lastly, I’m always on the lookout for ways to improve my work, so feel free to leave suggestions and criticism.

Thanks.

–John

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Bar graphs with a non-zero baseline? “Never”! says Biz Intel Guru. Here’s why…

Trying to understand the economy is tough business. Publishing your predictions about the economy on the web is even more difficult. So I was surprised when I came across a paper on economy.com’s website titled, “The Economic Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act” and noticed this chart.

zandi_unemployement

unemployment rate bar chart

The graph in question was taken from page 13 of the paper, written by Mark Zandi. It’s also featured on his homepage, here. Dr. Zandi is the chief-economist and co-founder of economy.com with a knack for verbally explaining complex things so clearly that non-economists can understand them. He is often heard on NPR and quoted in the WSJ and NYTimes weighing in on the economy. I’ve followed his career for over 15 years and respect his insights and success. It is out of that respect and admiration that I critique this graph.

The main problem with this bar chart is that it is telling two visual lies. The first one is quite serious, the second one, less so.

Bar charts must have a zero-based axis because we use the length of the bars to compare one bar to another bar. By breaking this rule economy.com’s unemployment rate chart makes it look like the unemployment rate will increase 6 fold from 2008Q3 to 2010Q4 without the stimulus, when in fact, the estimated increase is from roughly 6% to 11%, less than a 2x. The lack of a zero baseline also adds a false visual comparison between the ‘economic stimulus’ and ‘no economic stimulus bars’. For that let’s look at  bars in 10Q4. The ‘no economic stimulus bar’ (blue bar) is about 11.2% versus the ‘economic stimulus’ (black bar) of 8.5%. The actual difference between the two percentages is 1.3x, but take a look at the length of the bars and the difference appears to be 2x.

I know Dr. Zandi had good intentions when he went with 5 as his starting value on the Y axis. His intent was make the chart better show the trend over time, but in using a bar chart to display the data, he choose the wrong chart. What should he have used? Read on.

The second visual lie being told here is caused by the third dimension on the graph. Can we tell what the unemployment rate is expected to be in Q4 of 2010 with and without the stimulus? Looks to me like the no stimulus unemployment rate is expected to come in at 11.2% and the unemployment rate with stimulus is expected to be 8.5%. The angling of the Y axis makes it hard for the eye to track over to the value of the bar. To add insult to injury, the angle at the top of each bar makes it difficult to figure out where the ending value of the bar is. Should we reference the front side of the bar or the backside? Unfortunately, the corresponding data this graph is drawn from are not available from economy.com, so we can’t tell for sure where the points are. But we can try a little experiment.

bad_3d

3d bar chart is misleading

I whipped up the chart on the right using MS Excel 2007. The values for A, B, C, D are 10, 20, 30, 40 respectively. I’ve added the actual values to the top of each bar to make it a little easier to read. This 3D chart is actually insightful because it illustrates a serious problem with 3D charts–the bars misrepresent the data. Column D should line up with 40, but it doesn’t, it’s more like 38. If you’re telling a story as important as what’s going to happen to the economy after spending nearly $800 billion in taxpayer money, you should stay away from 3D bar charts because they tell lies about the data they represent.

And that brings us to the final flaw with this chart. Bar charts are generally best used for categorical or grouped data. For time-series data we usually want to go with a line chart, not a bar chart. The lines in the line chart help our eyes see trends in the data better than the individual bars in the bar chart. Line charts also allow us to start from a non zero baseline which allows the graph’s creator to show the trend by setting the min and max values slightly above and slightly below the max and min values of the data.

Now let’s compare a non 3D bar chart to a line chart. Same data on each chart. I don’t have quarterly data in either graph, just yearly because the only hard data available in Dr. Zandi’s paper was yearly.

zandi_bars_final

Bar charts must have a zero baseline

zandi_lines_final

the BI Guru's improved line chart for time series data

I obeyed the cardinal rule of the zero baseline on the bar chart, and you can see that the magnitude of the difference between stimulus and non stimulus unemployment isn’t nearly as overstated as it was on the original chart. Even more important, the trend is much easier to grasp from the line chart than the bar chart. Notice how it just about leaps off the chart? With the bar chart, you need to go back and forth one or two times to discern the trend.

Lastly, I chose a soft, somewhat natural color pallete to draw these charts. They’re much more pleasing to the eyes than black and blue.

–John

The Business Intelligence Guru

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