Animated map of US unemployment stats since 2007 (spoiler: we're fading to black)

jobless.jpgWhat's scariest about this animated visualization of American jobless rates? The animation doesn't include the figures released just last week, which would make the final frame even darker.

The Decline: Geography of a Recession, by Latoya Egwuekwe (American Observer, via Jason Calacanis)


  1. This is extremely misleading, considering that black means 90% of people are still working. The color scheme is zeroed wrong, and I’m not sure how promoting fear is going to help people create jobs or get back to work.

    1. It doesn’t say whether the data is U-3 or U-6. I suspect that it’s U-3. Thus, you are correct, it is extremely misleading, since U-6 (total unemployed/underemployed) runs about double the U-3 rate. So nearly 1 in 5 workers is now unemployed or flipping burgers. Promoting ignorance is no way to solve the problem either. Because, say you are employed. To you, it’s not a problem. You just aren’t getting raises like you used to. So, not to worry, no need to do anything about it. While at the same time the lives and families of 1 in 5 workers are being decimated. I’ll take knowledge over ignorance any day.

      1. I’m sure those families would love to have only lost 1/10th of their livelihood.

        I know, I know, “common usage” and all that – but it’s right there in the word for pete’s sake. Sorry, pet peeve of mine. “Knowledge over ignorance…” after all.

        1. You are technically correct, although its synonyms imply the intended meaning I think. Good catch though.

          WordNet Search – 3.0 – WordNet home page – Glossary – Help
          Word to search for: decimate
          Display Options:
          Key: “S:” = Show Synset (semantic) relations, “W:” = Show Word (lexical) relations

          * S: (v) decimate (kill one in every ten, as of mutineers in Roman armies)
          * S: (v) eliminate, annihilate, extinguish, eradicate, wipe out, decimate, carry off (kill in large numbers) “the plague wiped out an entire population”

  2. I agree with Chief Seattle. This graphic also hides the most serious unemployment figures, like in Michigan, where we’re surfing the wave at nearly 15% unemployment. Then again we’ve been sunk for a while, so this feels pretty normal.

    On the level of individuals rather than society, there is still plenty a person can do to distinguish him or herself in the job market… I’m about to be laid off and I’m spending my time catching up on valuable new programming skills that I’ve been too busy to check out. There are still opportunities out there.

  3. Curious that joblessness seems to mirror population density. Doesn’t having a higher population suggest a higher need for goods and services, and said goods and services are being supplied by people with jobs? You’d think it would be randomly distributed.

    It suggests that the best strategy for someone without a job, counterintuitively, is to move to Wyoming.

  4. As chief said, this is misleading. It starts with the January 2007 national rate of 4.7% already colored orange. This is a number considered close to full employment but on this map it is only 0.3% from being colored red. I am not saying things are good right now, but the map off and does not help anyone properly visualize anything.

  5. @Cory, what if you are observing “service/manufacturing” vs “farming” distribution rather than population density? Perhaps the biggest losses in jobs have been service-based (recently) and manufacturing related (over the past few decades), which would leave agriculture less affected if it is more “vital”.

    Agree with Chief Seattle; this is misleading. Unhelpful visualization, and besides, there are worse unemployment figures than 10%. In Michigan we are at almost 15% unemployment which this graph does not communicate in relation to the rest of the country. (I’m also about to be laid off but consider the unemployed time an opportunity. I get to bone up on new web technologies that I’ve been too busy working to try out.)

  6. It only mirrors population density in some cases. Oregon for example has a much lower population density than California, yet has very high unemployment.

  7. So what’s the deal with Cherry County, Nebraska? It doesn’t change colour at all during the animation. No job losses at all, or did they just not file their population stats?

  8. Yes, this map is misleading. Unemployment is actually a lot worse. If you count the part-time who would like to work fulltime and those that have given up, the real unemployment figure is over 17% and climbing.

  9. Friend linked me to this awhile ago.

    I remain amused that the Predator is now in charge of monitoring employment statistics.

  10. @#7 ranomatic:

    You’re right. I know the term is “frictional unemployment”. It’s been long enough since economics class, but I think that a stable unemployment rate of about 4% is considered normal and healthy. If it dips too far below that, something screwy is going on, and we’re probably in for a wild ride before it settles back to a sustainable rate.

  11. Interesting. My county is still in the purple. It’s also the last county in the state to turn color (orange to red, then red to purple).

    Are there any statistics indicating any migratory movement of unemployed people? It’s a personal curiosity.

  12. Interesting that the only relatively bright spots are pretty much in a vertical line from the Dakotas through Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma & Texas.

    Those are some of the reddest states in the country. I wonder how much of their love of the Repugs is based on pork-barrel jobs brought in when the party was in power?

    The low-unemployment counties are also by & large low-population, which I, an economics idiot, guess would skew the numbers. It definitely distorts the visual impression, because those few yellow counties add up to not much. Meanwhile the population centers are heading toward whatever goes beyond black. Infra-red?

  13. That looks epidemiological. If it was lacking any kind of a legend, you’d think it was a promo for World War Z.

    Personally, I’m perfectly comfortable using black as the legend color for a U-3 of 10%. As you can see over at, where he recalculates government stats according to the formulae that were in use decades ago so that you can compare apples to apples, a U-3 of 10% is equivalent to an actual unemployment rate* of just a hair under 22%, or nearly one in four.

    The claim that a U-3 of 5% was “natural unemployment” and that lower unemployment than that would cause runaway inflation is not a proven scientific fact. It’s a propaganda claim that was made back in the 1970s by the same people who wanted to raise unemployment in order to break the unions. During the 1990s, we saw the U-3 dip below 5%, and dip into the negative numbers in some regions of the country, without even a hint of inflation. “Natural unemployment” theory has all the scientific validity of young-earth Creationism.

    * Actual unemployment rate: Number of people who answered no to the question of “Do you have a full time paying job that uses your qualifications?” divided by the number of people who answered yes to the question of “Do you need one?”

  14. The map is totally accurate and very well done.

    It would be wise to perhaps do a bit of research, or at the very least read, before making unfounded comments and assertions. The map has been taken directly from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ website and is available to the public. The numbers are an annual average of unemployment by county – not the national or state averages calculated by month. Annual county unemployment numbers lag national numbers by approximately 30 days. And quite frankly, had it included the monthly national average, as well as the marginally-attached, the picture would be far worse.

    With all that said, the map greatly illustrates the current crisis and immediate need for jobs in this country.

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