A haunting picture of “the decline”

LaToya Egwuekwe has been producing the following animation for several months, and probably will continue producing it for many more. You can get her updates here. The video I’ve embedded below reflects the latest statistical map she produced in May. It’s compiled from the official unemployment figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, taken county by county in all 50 states. This is a lot of work, so my hat’s off to LaToya.

The video I have below shows the evolution of the unemployment rate across the country from January 2007 up to March 2010.

You can’t see what the colors represent real well without blowing it up full screen, so I recommend doing that. Basically, the lighter the color, the lower the unemployment rate. Likewise, darker color means a higher unemployment rate. Each color, except for purple and dark gray, represents a full point in the unemployment rate.

White represents an unemployment rate of 1.9% or lower. Bright yellow represents 2.0-2.9%. Orangish-yellow represents 3.0-3.9%. Orange represents 4.0-4.9%. Red represents 5.0-5.9%. Brown represents 6.0-6.9%. Purple represents 7.0-9.9% (note this is a range of 3 points). The last color is dark gray, which represents 10.0% or higher.

What you’ll see is by March 2010 large portions of the country, whole states, were at 10% or higher unemployment, specifically: Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, California, and Oregon. Large portions of Florida, Nevada, Arizona, Maine, Alaska, and Hawaii were also at 10% or higher. Many more states were at between 7.0-9.9%.

The only states that were doing reasonably well, between 2.0-5.9% unemployment in March 2010, were Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas. The major industries in these states are agriculture, natural gas, and mining–basic commodities. They also have low taxes.

The evolution of this map basically reflects predictions I remember Mark Zandi of Moodys.com making in 2008 about what was going to happen to the real estate markets in terms of the number of foreclosures across the country. This was about a year before the first major stimulus package was passed by the Democrats in 2009. One might be tempted to think this is proof that the stimulus made no difference. For the record, Zandi has been recommending stimulus spending throughout 2009 and 2010. Perhaps he factored that into his 2008 prediction.

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