a compilation of my work and thoughts

The Decline: The Geography of a Recession

In middle class prose on April 8, 2011 at 1:23 pm

Updated: April 8, 2011, at 4:30 pm

“The Decline: The Geography of a Recession” is updated monthly. If you would like to receive notification of each update, please click the “RSS Feed” link above to subscribe.

Now available on YouTube here.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more than 28 million people currently unemployed — that’s including those involuntarily working part-time and those who want a job, but have given up on trying to find one.

In the face of the worst economic upheaval since the Great Depression, millions of Americans are hurting. “The Decline: The Geography of a Recession” is a vivid representation of just how much. It’s an interactive map I created as a graduate student at American University, Washington, D.C. Watch the deteriorating transformation of the U.S. economy from January 2007 — approximately one year before the start of the recession — to the most recent unemployment data available today.

  1. WOW! Thanks for educating us. This was scary to see most of the map change to purple and dark green. There was one white dot in the north mid west area. I would love to know what county has less than 1.9% of the population unemployed and what is that county’s population.

  2. I emailed that map to so many people, and they were shocked.
    What an eye opener!

    Why don’t you redo the map and go back to the year 2000? Or maybe the year 1992?

    It would be interesting to compare today’s unemployment to that of the Clinton and Bush eras.

  3. Thanks for the suggestion. I will definitely look into that.

  4. Nice job on the map. The pacing of the intervals is perfect — it builds a sense of doom and the inevitable. I hope your server is up to the challenge because I’ve gotten this link sent to me by a couple of friends here at the University of Wisconsin. I think it’s going to be very popular.

  5. Thanks for the compliment, Matt. I have to admit the attention has far surpassed my expectations – over 41,000 hits in just the last week alone! I’m just happy the message about this country’s jobs crisis is getting out.

  6. no video, whats up????

  7. It appears the server has crashed due to the heavy traffic load. I’m working on getting the site back up as soon as possible. Sorry for the inconvenience.

  8. You need to send it to Fox Buisness news, Cavuto. That is if you want to really get bombarded with the press. State run media will have a fit. How dare you present the America people with the facts in such visual detail.

    So much for Stimulus and Bailouts and Stimulus II. We got better things to do then worry about employment, haven’t you heard. Healthcare and Cap and Tax are numero uno and dos. After Gitmo closing and a terrorist show trial that makes OJ look like an open and shut case.

    Enjoy. High unemployment is here to stay, or have you not looked at Europe who our leaders are determined to emulate. Pull up a map of France unemployment, that is if they don’t cook the books like they do in America. But that is part of a true journalist, digging for facts. It’s ignored by most “journalist” today. Glad to see your one of the few who care enough about getting it right and not pushing some ideology. Present the facts, let the chips fall where they may. Thanks

  9. URL is back up and running! Thanks for your comments SR.

  10. Killer awesome graphic!
    It’s floating around Facebook and it’s passing through the MarketTicker forums and other investing forums.

  11. Will you be updating this through October? Great job. Thanks so much.

  12. Absolutely, Lisa. The map will be updated each month with the latest information from BLS. I’m also going to make a few changes that’ll hopefully make it a bit smaller and easier to view. Feel free to suscribe to the blog to receive updates on latest changes.

  13. Brilliant bit of work, truly first class.It allows an amazing amount of data to be processed by the mind in a fast straight forward way. Designing graphics that are informative and insightful and containing a lot of data as you have done is very difficult, but you make it look effortless.

    There is tragedy in every moment as we watch the progression of the economic demise. This graphic should be on every computer in Congress and the Whitehouse, it allows no denial of our reality, and one would hope it would impel those in positions of authority to finally act before it gets worse yet.

    Thank you for making this and making it publicly accesible.

  14. […] Latoya Egwuekwe’s Blog to learn more about the work she is […]

  15. Great work! I think all reading this hope you continue to update it.

    You might consider the U6 numbers for unemployment that are provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The U6 measure of the unemployment rate includes people who have part-time jobs but are seeking full-time work, as well as discouraged people who have given up looking for work. The U6 rate was at 17 percent in September. This ‘de facto’ unemployment rate might also make an interesting story. Just a thought.

    Here’s a link –

  16. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by tom keene, Ross Harris. Ross Harris said: Here is the recession in full color: RT @tomkeene_: http://bit.ly/8wCkmE imagine the same with the U-6 underemployment @17.5% […]

  17. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by tomkeene_: http://bit.ly/8wCkmE this is just outstanding here is latoya’s blog post imagine the same with the U-6 underemployment @17.5% #jobs #fed…

  18. Would you please upload this on YouTube? I’d like to run it on my blog, and I know other bloggers will post it too.

  19. […] here to see the graphic and press play when you get […]

  20. Thanks everyone for your great comments!

    @Matthew: I’ve addressed the differences between the reported unemployment numbers and the REAL unemployment numbers (U6 rate) in the past on my blog, but it’s definitely worth mentioning again. A lot of folks still don’t get that. Thanks!

    @Kit: I’m working on your request and will post an update as soon as it’s available.

  21. Will you be able to publish a map with q 4 2009 stats in early January?

  22. […] Latoya Egwuekwe created an interactive map as a graduate student at American University which shows the impact the economy has had on the jobless rate by county. The map is a time lapse from January 2007 until September of 2009. The most recent unemployment rate for the US is 10.2% (boing-boing Referer). […]

  23. Latoya: Thanks for a great data map. I work with the Kentucky Office of Employment and one of my colleagues would like to know if it is possible to get your presentation on an individual state level. My email is Robert.Whitlock@ky.gov
    Thanks again, Robert Whitlock

  24. Latoya you have made your mark! Thank You. Your graphic is so compelling, my attorney was wondering if there was a way to print off time slices that we could submit as a compelling argument in a court setting. If that’s possible, your work could do much more than just inform. There are many of us who may need it to help defend ourselves in custody cases across the country. Yes, believe it or not, there are judges out there that think we just aren’t trying hard enough to find work!

  25. Latoya, Here’a a bit of the true statistics on Unemployed/Underemployed: http://www.godlikeproductions.com/sm/custom/jdesbiho.gif

    , BLS’ BS numbers for U3 is now at 10.2% not the 8.5% on your final resultant map.

    I would like to get together on doing one for Personal and Corporate Income Taxes via the US Treasury numbers I have been tracking every month for the past few years… that would be a true Graphical Disaster Map for the masses opening their eyes upon.

    Liberty Forrest com

  26. @Hollywood: As stated in the title and fine print, the map is actually an annual average of unemployment by COUNTY – not the U3.

    @Jon Taplin: The map will be updated as new numbers become available.

    @Robert Whitlock: Email me at latoya.egwuekwe@yahoo.com

    @Jamie Beckerich: Wow… I never thought about the map being used in court cases, but whatever works. I’ll actually be uploading some new changes pretty soon – one of which will include the ability to stop and play. Perhaps that and some screen shots will do the trick? Good luck.

  27. Latoya, This is awfully scary. I have been working on health care reform and was wondering if you could do one similar to this for people who lose their coverage due to job loss. The two are so closely tied that I think it could be as informative and shocking. Please let me know your thoughts.

  28. Hi Latoya, Thanks for this interesting and compelling map. I am wondering what software you used to create and if the county level data is adjusted for population.

    Thank You !

  29. @angel: email me at latoya.egwuekwe@yahoo.com

  30. Great job. I just finished writing a research paper for school regarding the effects of offshore outsourcing and this map is perfect validation. May I reference your map during my presentation?

    December 2, 2009

  31. I am impressed with the clever use of graphics, animation, and color to make a forceful and emotive point about unemployment. Congratulations on a nice job.

  32. I sent this to a whole bunch of people. It shows the “damage” done by the repression far better than any talking head on TV or vote seeking politician.

    Could you explain why your unemployment % numbers don’t match what we get on the news? Do you measure a different way? Just curious. Thanks for your fine work.

  33. Latoya, your graphic is interesting, but I have a nit to pick that no one else seems to have picked up on – why the one range from 7.0 -> 9.9? That range includes three times the range of the other ranges, except for the less than 1.9% range. I think it skews the animation in a not so useful way…

    I noticed this as I watched the country turn “dark” much quicker than the unemployment rate was rising. I know I’ll likely get slammed for questioning this, but I think more bands are required to make the graphic more accurate. I’m very suprised none of your public comments rasied this issue earlier.

    As a final note, I found you by googling your name off the graphic, which I found from a tweet from @timoreilly which linked to this graphic at American University…

  34. @Art: Great question. It is one I receive often. Here is the answer: the map shows the unemployment rate by county, which lags national unemployment (10%) by a month. That is why the information only shows as far as Oct. The Nov calculations are due out shortly before Christmas and will be updated at that time. But the information will always be about 30 days behind because that is how the BLS releases them.

    @Ken: You are not the first to notice that. The ranges are preset by the BLS. So, I’ll have to refer you to them. But, my guess is that perhaps they never expected unemployment to ever surpass the 7% mark and never thought they would have to use it? Not sure. But definitely a question worth asking. Thanks!

  35. I agree with Ken. The final range being 3 percentage points, compared to the others being one percentage point really skews the results. It’s especially frustrating because the final “ramping up” is the moment that you really want to see more detail. it’s the juiciest part!

  36. Latoya,

    Your map has made a deep impression on my colleagues at the NC Rural Economic Development Center as well as other North Carolina government agencies!

    To follow up on Ariann’s question; what software did you used to create the map?

  37. What a great presentation! I was wondering if it’s possible to estimate unemployment trends based on the data used in your presentation. It would be great to show on the map where we are and where we could possibly be just a few months from now .

  38. Also very impressed, also have some thoughts and questions.

    First, how did you make it? I’m sure many of us here would like to try our hand… Mapping geographic data over time has great promise for the future of journalism.

    Second, it would be great if you added two things: an interactive timeline and a graph of the unemployment rate that would change with the map itself. The first would make it easier to examine the map’s patterns, bringing your presentation from a neat animation to a useful tool. The second would allow people to make the connection between the geographical view of the recession that you’ve created and the statistical view of it that people are used to. It would also make the color-shifts on the map more apparent (you would see the US bloom into purple right as the trend sharply upward).

    Three, as people have been asking for, you could incorporate a state-level view. Hovering our the map would outline whatever state your mouse is over. You could then click, which would expand that state so that you could examine the change in detail.

    Fourth, you should absolutely make a cartogram view where the county size reflects population size instead of land area. This would address the concern that the map is somewhat misleading because of the way that population is concentrated in the US. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cartogram) As the image on the wikipedia page shows, it can be done at the county level.

    Keep up the good word!

  39. […] Unemployment Geography Posted on 12 December 2009 by andrewtytla Interesting illustration from LaToya Egwuekwe… […]

  40. it’s 15% in California… I NEVER EVER had a problem getting a job… until the past year…. it made me feel like a loser, I was judged and it really, really sucked. I finally gave up and started my own business… no one will hire me for a 50K job but they’ll pay me $30 an hour to help them with theirs….. go figure

  41. This map will help so many people not feel so alone. Thank you!!

  42. Very interesting…what mapping software did you use to show the trends over time?

  43. Purple America. This thing really brings it home. Thanks.

  44. Hi LaToya, I am apart of a linkedin GIS professional group and have posted a link to your map. You should read all of the amazing comments on there. What software did you use to create the map and display it?

  45. LaToya, I work for a state legislator in Florida. She sent me the link and wanted me to find out if there was a way we could incorporate this into a Economic Briefing PowerPoint presentation she is doing throughout her district. Fully attributed of course. Please let me know if this is possible. Thanks, and great work here!

  46. Just saw this on CNN. So impressed I had to find it myself! Good job!

  47. i can’t believe this was on CNN. Until the extreme discrepancy in the margin between 7% & 9.9%, this remains an extremely inaccurate depiction of anything.

    even if “they never thought it would go about 7%”, the graphic should be fixed so that the data can be better interpreted, not sensationalized.

  48. […] The Decline: The Geography of a Recession Jump to Comments by LaToya Egwuekwe […]

  49. There is one tiny county in west central IL that stands out when you look at the final map of IL. Is this Brown County, IL?

    Thanks, Tim

  50. […] Egwuekwe plans to update the graphic each month. Hopefully we will start to see a more sun shiny yellow breaking up the purple cloud of unemployment blanketing the country in the months to come. […]

  51. […] this map makes me feel lucky that I’m in one of the few counties that is still “yellow”, […]

  52. Latoya,

    I was inspired by your work and created a similar visualization of unemployment in North Carolina (http://www4.ncsu.edu/~rvrikard/Test.html or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AibBfh0JMIU).

    RV Rikard

  53. […] six months it’s been. I feel like I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants since the launch of “The Decline: The Geography of a Recession” last October. Who would’ve thought a simple email from my boss who first shared the map with […]

  54. do you have any state specific maps? would love to see this on a smaller scale?


  55. The unemployment rate in America is crazy us people need to do something about it.

  56. Thank god they say this isn’t a “depression.” (yeah, right)

  57. […] and bloggerLaToya Egwuekwe created a depiction of the recession entitled, The Decline: The Geography of a Recession that is as powerful for being so […]

  58. Ms. Egwuekwe –
    You have created a brilliant, frighteningly beautiful work. I live in northern Michigan, and work in Employment Services. We do the very best we can, but have watched our local situation grow worse and worse. To see it illustrated in this way is beyond striking…

  59. I am wondering if an update will happen this quarter? Many people here in the Washington, DC area are quite impressed with data representation.

  60. Perhaps is because that’s the way the data is published, but I’d love to see this done with the 7.0 – 9.9 rates broken down to be comparable with the remaining rates (ie – an increment of 1.0). As it is, while accurate, it appears heavily weighted and could be refuted more easily by those who refuse to see the state of unemployment.

  61. […] Decline: The Geography of a Recession by LaToya Egwuekwe has been updated. This is a revealing […]

  62. Beautiful infographic…wow…it really illustrates the change like a decay. Anyway you could redo it with the same numbers, without completely fabricating the dates? According to your own source (Bureau of Labor), Obama took office (Jan ’09) at 8.5% unemployment? Here’s the link in case you lost it: http://www.google.com/publicdata?ds=usunemployment&met=unemployment_rate&tdim=true&dl=en&hl=en&q=unemployment+rates

  63. While I appreciate the comments and open dialogue (in fact I encourage it!), it would be nice if everyone checked the facts – thoroughly – before blindly posting. “The Decline: The Geography of a Recession” is based on the Dept. of Labor’s “unemployment rate by county.” Again, it is not based off the household survey. The numbers have not been “fabricated.” Look it up. (This information is also explained in the fine print of the graphic.)

    The color code and range are also directly from the Dept. of Labor. They, too, have not been fabricated or purposely made to appear “weighted.” Again, look it up.

    Once you are able to see the data for what it really is, then we can have a productive conversation. I understand this is a passionate subject for all of us, but it doesn’t do anyone any good when individuals post information that is, either, blatantly inaccurate, or, has not been fully vetted.

  64. I’m not referring to the map, but rather the heading above each interval. This is presumably the national unemployment rate for the given month. The link I published above (which is sourced from BLS) paints a dramatically different picture of unemployment by month compared to what I see in your graphic. Why?

  65. The title clearly states “Unemployment Rates by County.” It does not say “National Unemployment Rate.” These are two completely different calculations. And two of several that the BLS calculates each month, I might add. Again, I encourage you to research the facts.

  66. I am attempting to research the facts by asking questions. With your book, you aim to educate the public, no? The percentage listed in the heading of the graphic that changes with every month is the “Unemployment Rate by County?” Which county? Is it an average of all the counties? Is this different from the national average and how?

  67. Will there be any more updates on this map? This is a very useful tool to see just how bad things truly are.

  68. Update scheduled for tomorrow. Thanks so much for asking! So glad it helps 🙂

  69. Thanks for the update. I was figuring that you are probably busy like the rest of us are. It’s got to be a lot of work just to go through all of those counties. It looks like the decline has slowed a bit. However I do not expect that to hold too much longer. This is based on what Lindsey Williams is saying and watching the price of crude oil go up.


    Now as for creating a map based on an analysis of the government’s results would be pure speculation and I do not want to see such a map. Sure I would like to see a more accurate map, but that would be beyond an average person to do on their own. So who do I fault on the under reporting of the unemployment rate? I only blame the government for that. I have heard that this was a problem during the great depression as well. The so called 25 percent unemployment during the depression may have been more like 40 percent.

  70. Latoya,

    I have permanently bookmarked your sight for analysis of the economy and correlation to government news releases. Thank you for keeping the website/blog up and alive. Do you expect an update to the employment data mapping simulation this quarter?


    Dennis W.

  71. YOu should make one of these for The Euro Zone. I imagine it would be just as interesting.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: