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.
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.