January 8, 2010

Where did the recession hit hardest? Interactive map tracks the carnage

Slate.com has created an interactive map that shows the Nation's job losses, County by County and for each month,  one year to the next.

Based on the Labor Department's local area unemployment statistics,  you can click on a month and see for each County,  how many jobs were gained or lost from the year before.  If a County gained jobs,  the circle surrounding the County shows up in blue.  If there was a loss,  it's red.

The circle's are sized proportional to the job loss figures,  so if you look at the last month charted (October 2009) what you see is that there is a huge red circle encompassing Los Angeles County.  San Diego and Sacramento are also covered in red,  as are most of the major population centers across the country.  To the extent that there are any winners to be seen on this map,  it looks like Riley Kansas and Travis Texas were the counties with the most jobs gained. 

If you go back to January 2007,  months before the recession "officially" started,  the map is mostly blue.  More jobs were being created than lost (nationwide).  July of 2008 is when it starts showing more red than blue.  October 2009 is awash in red.

You've seen the commercials on TV with the national 3G (smart phone) coverage maps.  That is kind of what these maps look like.  But rather than showing all the places you can use your smartphone,  what you see is all the places where you can find people out of work ... which is just about everywhere that people live. 

It's not at all a pretty picture,  but there are two things to keep in mind if you look at it:

First:  These figures show the difference in each month in comparison to the same month the year before.  That is not the number that we are really interested in.  What we really need to keep our eye on is how this month compares with last month! That's what tells us whether or not we are digging out of this hole.

Second:  This map does not take into account the employment numbers from November 2009 (released in December,  the last numbers available).  As I wrote when those figures came out,  there seems to be some good news coming!  The actual rate of jobs lost month to month has slowed,  and it looks like the Nation is starting to actually gain jobs.  There is more pain to come and it's not going to happen overnight,  but at this point,  there is good reason to say we are well into the beginning of the end on this horribly painful recession.