Visualizing Unemployment By State

I worked on this for a talk on visualization that I gave last week and I thought it was something that would be enjoyed here.

This is basically just a visualization of unemployment by state since we started collecting the data. With the play button, you can watch the whole thing from 1976 to 2009 in about a minute or you can drag along the timeline to a specific month. The size of the circle indicates the number of people unemployed in a given state and the color of the circle indicates the rate of unemployment in the state. Move you mouse over one of the circles to see the raw data.

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If you’re interested in looking at this project in more detail, I talk about it at my professional site, Designer Silverlight.

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  1. raedyohed says:

    You might be interested (I know I would be) in providing a similar visual based on a population-density distorted cartogram ( The map would need to be dynamic to reflect changes in state populations, but it would remove the need for the growing/shrinking circles which are a little distracting, replacing them with the population-distortion of the state istself. Cool viz.

  2. politicalmath says:


    I would love to try to get a distorted cartogram for this data. I’ll take a look at that link and see what I can do with it. I worry that creating an animating distorted cartogram might be a little processing intense. I agree that the circles can be a little distracting, but I fought for a while with a good way to display the scale of the data and I think the circles do a pretty good job. I might want to go back and make the baseline a little smaller, so that the circles don’t get as huge but the east coast is just so damn populated with such small states, I’m not sure there’s a good workaround.

    Oh well. 🙂

  3. raedyohed says:

    I don’t know how you’ve set up the animation, but in theory, if you could create a single cartogram for each time point based off yearly state populations and then string them together quick and dirty like. Not very cpu intensive. It would be cool to see, but after following some links through the ESRI site I’m not sure there’s data in the format you’d need prior to 1990. Still…

  4. John L says:


    Would you keep updating this for 2010 when the year rounds out? It’ll be really handy to see where we land in 2010, 11, & 12.

    Definitely going to pass this along to some of my Economics friends, handy thing for college students.

  5. Hutch says:

    Great work, that looks unbelievable! we need careers in this country not “jobs”!

  6. […] leave a comment » I haven’t had time to collect my thoughts on this yet.  But it absolutely owns me right now.  It’s a visualization of historical unemployment data, broken down by state, from the able-brained dude behind Political Math. […]