Unemployment and Occupation

Unemployment has hit some industries more than others. Here's how the most recent estimates compare against last year's. Read More

Shape of unemployment

For The New York Times, Ella Koeze looks at the various types of unemployment and how rates changed over the past six months.

The piece uses area charts, with a focus on the shape over time. With the consistent value axis and side-by-side placement, it’s kind of like a deconstructed stacked area chart, but with easier comparisons across categories.

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Distribution of unemployment at the tract level

We’ve been hearing a lot about national unemployment rate, but it’s not uniformly distributed across the country. Some areas are a lot higher, some places are a lot lower, and there are places in between. To see the variation across the United States, Yair Ghitza and Mark Steitz estimated unemployment at the tract level.

Quoctrung Bui and Emily Badger for NYT’s The Upshot have the maps and histograms zooming in on places where unemployment is the highest.

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If the unemployed lose $600 per week

A $600 per week benefit expires for the unemployed at the end of July. Congress is still deciding what to do after. For The New York Times, Ella Koeze highlights the percentage of usual income the unemployed will receive as a function of annual earnings and weekly benefit amount if the benefit goes away.

Each dot represents a state. The percentage ranges in the background provide a point of reference for where each income group and state falls. The scrollytelling format starts with individual points and then tours through the shifts.

An aside: I might just be imagining things, but I feel like there’s been more scrollytelling lately. Is this a function of doomscrolling on our phones? Also, whenever a chart anchors in the background and a text frame scrolls over, I think of Snow Fall from 2012.

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Unemployment for different groups

Unemployment has hit the United States hard over the past several months, for some harder than others. Lena Groeger reporting for ProPublica:

Part of the reason for this disparity is that many workers of color, especially Black workers, didn’t come into the crisis on equal footing. At the beginning of 2020, when the U.S. was at what most would have considered peak economic prosperity, the unemployment rate for Black workers was more than double that of their white counterparts. “The classic fact about Black unemployment,” said William Darity Jr., an economist at Duke University who studies racial inequality, “is that it’s been two times the white rate since we started measuring it.”

Each line represents a different subpopulation, so you can scroll over specific lines or select specific groups with the buttons. It’s similar to this New York Times interactive from 2009.

But this is 2020, so Groeger uses the overview as the initial view and then it shifts into scrollytelling. Groups highlight and the time frame expands as you read. This eventually takes you back to the initial view, where you’re invited to explore the data.

The overview first provides an opportunity for the reader to set a baseline as it relates to their own demographic. Then you see how specific groups are different or similar to that baseline. At the end, with a different baseline set, you can compare one more time.

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Unemployment Rate Changes

In April 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated a national unemployment rate of 14.7%. It wasn't just the rate itself but how fast it spiked. Read More

Households that lost income

This straightforward grid map by Danielle Alberti for Axios shows the percentage of adults in a household where someone lost employment income. In all likelihood, you know someone affected in one way or another.

The data comes from the Census Household Pulse Survey, which is an effort to gauge the impact of Covid-19.

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Where unemployment benefits are higher than lost wages

Economists at the University of Chicago analyzed unemployment benefits from the CARES act and compared them against median salaries for different occupations and by state. FiveThirtyEight highlighted the differences:

The researchers uncovered other kinds of inequality, too. In some professions, like janitorial work, people who are employed by essential businesses are continuing to show up to their jobs under hazardous conditions. But in doing so, they may be eligible for less money than janitors who have been laid off or furloughed by a nonessential business. In an ideal world, Ganong said, the people who have kept working at hospitals or grocery stores would be receiving some kind of hazard pay. “But that’s generally not the reality, which means there’s a weakness in the current system,” he said. “We’re giving more money to certain workers to stay home than to other workers who are putting themselves at risk by going to work.”

I don’t know the right answers to any of this, but it underscores the difficulties of making decisions based on averages. The system is built for simplicity and basic values. How do we adjust or rebuild the system for real-world variation and distributions?

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Unemployment spike

The Department of Labor released the numbers for last week’s unemployment filings. 3.28 million for the country. For The New York Times, Quocktrung Bui and Justin Wolfers show the numbers relative to the past and a breakdown by state:

This downturn is different because it’s a direct result of relatively synchronized government directives that forced millions of stores, schools and government offices to close. It’s as if an economic umpire had blown the whistle to signal the end of playing time, forcing competitors from the economic playing field to recuperate. The result is an unusual downturn in which the first round of job losses will be intensely concentrated into just a few weeks.

You can find the recent data here.

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Unemployment in America, Mapped Over Time

Unemployment in the United States

Watch the regional changes across the country from 1990 to 2016. Read More