Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Visualizing unemployment

Like a virus unchecked, like a cancer left to metastasize at will, unemployment has spread across this country at a dizzying rate of speed. You know that. You’ve been living it. You’ve heard it on the cable news. The White House has made it Job #1 for the months and years to come.

But in a visual culture, one that thrives on the distilling snapshot image to get a point across, it’s hard to top the recently released and thoroughly alarming graphic by an enterprising journalist, a series of images that nationalizes the scope and the stakes of the problem like nothing else can.



Latoya Eguwuekwe, a political reporter, television anchor and producer in Cleveland and Tallahassee, and currently a labor writer based in Washington, produced an interactive county-by-county breakdown of the rise and march of unemployment while she was a graduate student at American University in Washington. The map graphic (available at YouTube) uses data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to show the impact of the recession not just from its official starting point, in December 2007, but almost a year before.

The Daily Kos published it earlier this month; the Huffington Post followed with it today.

“The Decline: The Geography of a Recession” shows what happened between January 2007, when the unemployment rate was a manageable 4.6, and June of this year, when the official rate hit 9.7 percent.

Problematic for Team Obama is the rate of decline since the president took office. In January 2007 the rate was 4.6 percent; it drifted in the low to mid-single digits for much of the next two years. Shortly after Obama was inaugurated, the rate accelerated. Fast.

Making matters worse: the graphic and the official rate, disturbing as they are, don't even account for the underemployed and those who've just given up looking for work.

You can be damn sure that this video is required viewing at the White House; the video clarifies the situation better than any policy statements, even better than the most crystalline prose of President Obama himself.

For analysts and policy wonks, it’s a stark indicator of just how daunting the challenges for this White House really are. For the rest of us — the nearly 30 million Americans caught up in the worst economic maelstrom since the Great Depression — it's a reminder of how far we’ve fallen in no time at all. As if we really need a reminder of that.

2 comments:

  1. Well, thanks for making my uneasy day, a little more uneasy ;)

    ReplyDelete
  2. here via Kim (above comment).

    amen to her words.

    ReplyDelete

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