29
Dec
2015
14:10 PM

The Unemployment Numbers Game

Recent trends have suggested that unemployment rates in the United States continue to drop to the 5% level, far below peak levels seen in the wake of the 2008-2009 recession. Partisan political supporters are likely to credit the Obama administration for this development, and are quick to criticize those who discount his role in driving these numbers. These figures are routinely quoted by the mainstream media with little investigation or explanation for why the numbers are trending favorably. Even as many other economic indicators suggest an economy stuck in neutral, or perhaps still mired in a long-term depression, low unemployment rates are heralded as indicative of a recovering economy. Yet if unemployment rates are so low, why does the economy seem so sluggish?

In this article, we will use historical data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to track patterns and tell the real story about employment and unemployment patterns in 2015. All datasets focus on adults 16 & over, and are not seasonally adjusted, although some of our charts will use moving averages to smooth the data. To tell this story, we'll focus on several data sets created by the BLS:

  • Labor force participation, expressed as a 0-100 number (a percentage)
  • Employment ratio, also expressed as a 0-100 number (a percentage)
  • Full-time workers, a raw number expressed in thousands (000's)
  • Unemployed workers, expressed in thousands (000's)
  • Labor force, expressed in thousands (000's)
  • Adults not in labor force, expressed in thousands (000's)

We'll navigate through each of these datasets, providing charts for each measure, and offering critical analysis of each trend. Note that all of these charts are interactive; use the small, lower chart to select a range of data to be displayed in the main chart. When the number of data points are sufficiently limited, you will be able to hover over any point to see the time period and corresponding data value.

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18
Oct
2015
7:30 AM

Ekstraklasa Patterns 1994-2015

This piece on the Ekstraklasa, the top level of Polish football (soccer) is being created as a companion piece to my upcoming presentation at the Data+ conference in Warsaw at the end of November 2015. Within this story, data will be used to illustrate many of the patterns within the league over the last 21 seasons, from the 1994-95 campaign through the 2014-15 season. We will tell several different stories using this data, which is found on the us.soccerway.com website.

Before we begin, let's pause to consider a number of possible storylines we could pursue using the data. The following paragraphs highlight just a few of the many possibilities.

One simple storyline might be to explore the number of seasons per team over this 21-year period. Unlike many sports, soccer has a system where poor-performing teams are subject to demotion to a lower level of competition. It might prove interesting to understand which teams were present for all 21 seasons (if any), versus those teams that ascended to this level for only a few seasons. Another facet of this story could be to highlight teams that no longer exist, for financial or other business reasons.

Another angle might look at some of the more common metrics involved in determining success (or failure). In this dataset, we have a number of critical measures readily available, ranging from points per season to wins, draws, losses, goals scored and allowed, and rank. These can be examined within individual seasons, or as an aggregate over the 21-year period.

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16
Jul
2015
12:45 PM

Contribution Footprints

A few months back I did a network visualization on political contributions to political candidates. This network was composed of candidates, incumbents, political action committees (PACs), corporations, trade associations, and more. The network was very dense, and perhaps a bit intimidating to navigate, but filled with a lot of interesting information. I thought it would be interesting to dissect the network a bit, and show a handful of the visual footprints for selected candidates, PACs, corporations, labor unions, and trade associations.

The footprint notion is inspired by a very interesting and informative book written by Cesar Hidalgo and others titled "The Atlas of Economic Complexity: Mapping Paths to Prosperity", found here: Atlas of Economic Complexity. The authors use a single footprint showing hundreds of industries and then overlay each country's footprint on this single global network. The graphs I'm about to share won't be based on one identical network, but will reflect each individual entity and their connections within the larger total network. Once you see the first charts you'll get a clearer picture of the concept.

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05
Jul
2015
11:25 AM

Homicide

Homicide. Guns. Legislation. 2nd Amendment rights. Confederate flags. Once again, people in the United States have worked themselves into a lather over the admittedly awful events that took place in a church in Charleston, South Carolina. Aided by preening politicians looking to gain favor (and eternal employment and wealth), there has been nearly nonstop dialogue about guns, flags, and other symbols of alleged evil. It seems we have seen this movie before, and as with its multiple predecessor episodes, there appears to be little in the way of facts amidst the posturing and rhetoric. In this story, we'll take a step back and visit the larger issue of homicide within the United States, and attempt to place it in proper context relative to the world as a whole.

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27
Jun
2015
13:18 PM

Welcome

Welcome to visualidity.com, a site devoted to the art of visual storytelling. If you're not familiar with the concept, storytelling is a way of communicating information though a host of available methods, including tables, charts, interactive visuals, sound, images, and any other approach that can be provided via the web. On this site, the stories will largely center on political, economic, and social issues, and will be driven by the facts, rather than an adherence to dogma either from the left or right of the political spectrum. As a reader, you will likely detect support for market-oriented solutions rather than government ones, as I subscribe to a traditional libertarian and Austrian economics view of the world.

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