Visualizing South Korea’s Assailed Trade Relationship With The U.S.

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Economy & Finance, Policy & Politics, South Korea

President Trump isn’t happy with the United States’ bilateral trade agreement with South Korea.

His main concern, it seems, is that the United States has suffered a “trade deficit”. That means South Korea — a key ally in East Asia on security issues, not just trade — has been exporting more goods to the United States than it has been importing.

In 2016, this deficit was about $23.2 billion.

That’s a big figure, but the United States has a big economy. In context, it’s not much.

Before we get to why that matters, here’s a look South Korea’s trade balances with the world’s largest economies last year. It had surpluses with China ($37.5 billion), its main export customer, Hong Kong ($31.2 billion) and the United States ($23.2 billion), among others.

It had trade deficits of its own with some economically powerful countries, by the way, most significantly Japan (-$21.3 billion), Germany (-12.4 billion) and Saudi Arabia (-$10 billion). Take a look:

It’s important to note that trade balances sometimes vary based on the products each country sells and each country’s relative slice of the global economy, not necessarily trade agreements in their early stages. (China is an exporting powerhouse that sells mass quantities of cheap goods to almost everyone. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, sells pricey oil. The nature of that trade is already imbalanced).

It’s also critical to think about each country’s balance in the context of its overall trade with South Korea.

The United States has that $23 billion deficit, as Trump and others in the United States have noted recently. It imports about $66.4 billion from South Korea and exports about $43.2 billion. A key departure point is automobiles. (You don’t see many American cars on the roads here in Seoul, where I live). Regardless of why, the deficit represented about 21 percent of the overall trade in 2016.

That’s a significant (and growing) figure, but how does it compare relative to other countries?

When normalized, Egypt, Hong Kong, Turkey, Poland, India, Mexico, Belgium and Norway had more unbalanced trade relationships with South Korea than the United States did last year.

Here’s a look at South Korea’s various trade balances with the world’s largest economies, over time, as a percentage of each nation’s overall trade relationship. While South Korea enjoys a trade surplus with the United States, it’s relatively modest in the context of the overall volume — on par with Brazil, China and Thailand, for example.

I’m not saying Trump is wrong to worry about whether the United States has an equal trade relationship with this one trading partner. There’s just a piece of the picture, perhaps, missing from the discussion — even before you consider whether picking an economic fight with a regional security ally is smart policy right now.

[Image from Misaeng (season one, episode 11). It’s an old K-drama I’m just watching now.]

Four Decades of State Unemployment Rates, in Small Multiples, Part 2

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Economy & Finance

I posted recently about how the state-by-state unemployment rate has changed during my lifetime. The result was a small multiples grid that put the states in context with one another.

Today I’ve created a new version aimed at identifying more precisely how each state has differed from the national unemployment rate during the last four decades. The lines show the percentage point difference — above (worst) or below (better) — from the national rate.

This view allows us easily to identify the most anomalous states in both directions (West Virginia, for example, had quite an unemployment spike during the 1980s; South Dakota, on the other hand, has never been worse than the national rate).

There’s plenty more to explore in this quick remix:

Four Decades of State Unemployment Rates, in Small Multiples

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Economy & Finance

There’s good news this week in the monthly jobs report, the latest sign that the economy, however grudgingly, has healed from the financial crisis nine years ago:

The unemployment rate fell to 4.6 percent, the Labor Department said, from 4.9 percent. The last time it was this low was August 2007. That was the month, you may recall, when global money markets first froze up because of losses on United States mortgage-related bonds: early tremors of what would become a recession four months later and a global financial crisis nine months after that.

These things, of course, are cyclical. Here’s how the unemployment rate has changed, by state, during my lifetime:

See a full-screen version for a larger grid.

New Poverty Data Show Improving Economic Conditions in States

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Economy & Finance

Economic conditions continue to improve in America’s states, with many showing significant declines in their poverty rates, according to new survey data released recently by the U.S. Census Bureau.

About 14.7 percent of the American population had incomes last year that were below their respective poverty levels, which vary depending on household size — a significant decline from 2014.

Charting Billions of (Endangered?) $100 Bills

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Economy & Finance, Policy & Politics

hundred-face

The ubiquitous $100 currency note — the Bill, the C-Note, the Benjamin — might be ready to cash out, at least if a group of influential economists have their way.

In a recent paper, scholars at Harvard University argue that the elimination of the $100 bill, along with other high-value currency notes around the world, could reduce corruption and restrict criminal enterprises.

Their findings even prompted a former U.S. Treasury Secretary, Lawrence Summers, to suggest that governments should stop printing $50 and $100 notes, reports The Wall Street Journal.

“I’d guess the idea of removing existing notes is a step too far. But a moratorium on printing new high-denomination notes would make the world a better place,” Mr. Summers wrote in an item for The Washington Post’s Wonkblog.

As the Journal reports, though, the $100 bill isn’t quite spent. About 10 billion of them — roughly $1 trillion in currency — are still circulating through the world economy (though far too few are in my wallet these days).

They’ve been printed at a steady rate during the last 30 years, according to data released by the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing. And another 1.5 billion have been ordered for the 2016 fiscal year, the agency says.

This chart plots the printing rates of the various U.S. dollar notes since 1980. Note the recent spike in $100 printing during the 2013 fiscal year. That fall the government began issuing a new round of $100 bills with enhanced security features. The printing fell off again last year to reflect the burst in new paper.

Government Currency Printing: 1980-2014

See a full-screen version.

Data: U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

Charting Americans’ Turkey Consumption Per Household: 1967-2012

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Demographics, Economy & Finance

Americans who celebrate Thanksgiving generally enjoy a good bird, myself included. But is that the case in some years more than others?

This chart shows turkey production (254 million this year) normalized by the number of households estimated each year by the U.S. Census Bureau. In the sixties, turkeys were produced at lower per-household rates than, say, the 1990s. We’re back down to about two turkeys per household now:

Who knows why this shift occurred. Perhaps diets changed, or people purchased more food in bustling economic times, like the 1990s, or we started importing turkey from China. Any ideas?

You can gobble up the turkey data here.

Charting Unmarried Households And The Effect On Kids’ Future Income

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Demographics, Economy & Finance

The New York Times has a fascinating story today about links between marriage and children and the growing class divide in America. The story focuses on two families — one led by a married couple, Chris and Kevin Faulkner; the other by a struggling single mom, Jessica Schairer:

The economic storms of recent years have raised concerns about growing inequality and questions about a core national faith, that even Americans of humble backgrounds have a good chance of getting ahead. Most of the discussion has focused on labor market forces like falling blue-collar wages and lavish Wall Street pay.

But striking changes in family structure have also broadened income gaps and posed new barriers to upward mobility. College-educated Americans like the Faulkners are increasingly likely to marry one another, compounding their growing advantages in pay. Less-educated women like Ms. Schairer, who left college without finishing her degree, are growing less likely to marry at all, raising children on pinched paychecks that come in ones, not twos.

The story is accompanied by two charts illustrating the trend. The first shows how the rate of women having children outside of marriage has increased among all racial groups:

This chart shows that children who don’t live with both parents are less likely to move up to higher income groups as adults:

Charting Netflix’s Stock Drop

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Economy & Finance

The last two days have been rough for Netflix. Here’s David Carr’s take on its latest woes:

In earnings announced on Monday, word came that for the first quarter, the company lost $4.6 million, its first loss since 2005. The company also said that its aggressive international expansion was going to take longer than expected. Netflix stock tanked, down over 14 percent on Tuesday.

This area chart shows how quickly the video service’s stock dropped in after-hours trading following the earnings announcement late Monday:

See larger version, via Yahoo! Finance.

How Americans Spending Habits Compare With Other Countries

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Economy & Finance

From The Washington Post

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has a fascinating new report out that compares consumer budgets in the United States, Canada, Britain and Japan. As the graph below shows, there’s a huge amount of variation in what people in each country are spending their money on: 

Visualizing Gas Prices by State, Income and Time

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Economy & Finance

Gas prices risen for the eighth straight day, part of a trend that’s driven the cost up 17% this year, according to AAA data reported by CNN Money:

The national average price for a gallon of gasoline rose for the eighth straight day on Saturday to $3.835. That is now only about 7% below the record high of $4.11 from July 2008.

CNN mapped the gas prices data by state: 

CNN also created a map illustrating the percentage of residents’ income spent on gas by state. Mississippi residents spend almost 12 percent of their income on gas, for example:  

This line chart uses Bureau of Labor Statistics data (not adjusted for inflation) to show the trend over my lifetime:

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