Jobless Claims at Five-Decade Low

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Economy & Finance

The number of Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits hasn’t been this low since Richard Nixon was president, according to new data from the U.S. Labor Department.

The figures suggest a tight labor market in which employers are retaining employees because there aren’t as many available qualified workers, Bloomberg reported:

Overall, the employment picture remains solid, with payrolls continuing to increase and the unemployment rate at the lowest since late 2000. Job growth will help sustain consumer spending, the biggest part of the economy.

Here’s a remix of Bloomberg’s chart, which game me an excuse to finally deploy something with “swoopy” annotation (thanks, Adam!):

Image courtesy @bytemarks via Creative Commons.

Visualizing the Historical Relationship Between White, Black Unemployment Rates

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Economy & Finance

President Trump was right last month when he bragged that black unemployment rate was at a historical low. The rate in December was 6.8 percent, the lowest it’s been since 1972 (though it ticked back up nearly a percentage point last month).

But the president’s statement excluded some important context about the historic movement of this rate by race and ethnicity. I’ve tried to explain in these graphics.

First, here are four rates — all groups, black, Hispanic and white — since Ronald Reagan was in office. The early 1980s, as you can see, were pretty rough. Things have gotten better, both in terms of the rate during recessions and recoveries, and all groups have improved together as a pattern since the Great Recession:

Whether you believe a president can have any short-term effect on unemployment or not, a key point is that these rates rise and fall together. They are quite strongly correlated. In about 90 percent of the months since 1980, for example, a relationship existed between movement in the white and black rates. This correlation is slightly less strong under Democratic presidents, for whatever reason:

Even though the black rate is relatively low today, it has historically been about 2-2.5 times higher than the white rate.

Image courtesy Wikimedia/U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

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: 

Union Membership by State

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Uncategorized

In the early 1970s, one in four American workers belong to a labor union. Last year, they represented about 12 percent of the workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics

This map shows membership by state, with darker shades representing higher proportions of the workforce in unions. North Carolina has the lowest percentage of union workers: 3.2 percent. New York has the highest: 24.2 percent. 

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This map has the same data, but in an interactive format: 

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics | Download data