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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.

Charting Historical Voter Turnout

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Policy & Politics

As FiveThirtyEight notes, turnout in the 2016 presidential election isn’t dramatically lower than it was four years ago, according to the latest estimates. And with many mail-in and provision ballots still being counted, the 2016 turnout rate could still change:

Approximately 58.1 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in last week’s presidential election, according to the latest estimates from Michael McDonald, associate professor at the University of Florida, who gathers data at the U.S. Elections Project. That’s down only slightly from 2012, when turnout was 58.6 percent, and well above 2000’s rate of 54.2 percent. Turnout may end up being higher than in any presidential election year between 1972 and 2000….

We won’t have final turnout numbers for weeks or months because some states are still counting ballots; millions remain uncounted. That means estimates based solely on votes counted so far will understate turnout — though already more presidential votes have been counted this year than in 2012 (contrary to reports that fewer voters turned out this year). In the meantime, most news organizations rely on estimates from McDonald.

Here’s a quick look at historic turnout in both midterm and general elections, according to estimates compiled by McDonald:

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How Far Above (Or Below) .500 Did Each MLB Team Finish This Season?

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Sports

I live in South Korea, where it isn’t always easy to watch American baseball (unless you’re a fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers or the Texas Rangers). So I’m catching up with data.

Charting Taiwan’s Sea of Scooters

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Demographics, Taiwan

Scooters at a Taipei intersection. Credit: Quatro Valvole/Wikimieda

Scooters at a Taipei intersection. Credit: Quatro Valvole/Wikimieda

I’m in Taiwan this month to study Mandarin. During breaks, I’ll be posting occasionally about the island nation’s demographics, politics and (sticky) weather.

One of the first things you’ll notice about the streets of Taiwan — other than the excellent food, sweet people and formidable humidity, of course — is the constant buzz of scooters. They are everywhere — and loud and perhaps a little unsafe.

That’s true even in Taipei, the capitol region, which has a world-class subway system and yet about 1 million motorcycles on the roads (as opposed to roughly 800,000 cars and trucks).

It turns out there’s a proportionally startling number of motorcycles, as the government classifies them, on the roads across this country: More than 13 million in nation of just 23 million.

Most homes have them, for example:

And there are nearly twice as many motorcycles on the roads than cars and trucks, according to the government:

Though the rate of motorcycles per 1,000 population is declining:

Someday I’ll Say Goodbye to Seoul. I Might Miss the Weather.

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: South Korea, Weather

Note: I followed my wife, a foreign correspondent for NPR News, to Seoul last year. This is one of a series of posts exploring our adopted country’s demographics, politics and other nerdy data stuff. Let me know if you have ideas for future posts.

I’ve been in Seoul just over a year, and I can’t stay here forever, so I’m starting to think seriously about the next city. For me, a key consideration is weather (and, you know, work and kids’ schools and such).

Seoul’s been pretty great, especially the relatively mild summers. But what can I expect from the next town? Here are the average monthly temperatures for the likely contenders. Some are warmer than others:

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Or maybe one of these 269 places?

Data source: NOAA Comparative Climate Data

Charting the Popularity of ‘Hillary’

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Demographics, News, Policy & Politics

Despite her big win in New York, trouble looms for Hillary Clinton in the general election, according to a new poll that shows her favorable/unfavorable ratings at dangerously low levels among key demographic groups.

Clinton has seen her fair share of bad polls over the years, yet she’s found ways to rebound. The same can’t really be said about her first name, however.

Perhaps one measure of her favorability — if so, a cruel one — is the frequency with which American parents have decided to call their daughters “Hillary”. The name peaked historically the year her husband, Bill Clinton, won the White House. It then plummeted dramatically, according to Social Security card application data released by the federal government.

This chart shows the proportion of parents who picked “Hillary” since 1947, the presidential candidate’s birth year:

“Hillary” was most popular in 1992, when about 2,500 girls received the name — roughly .14 percent of those listed in the data that year. Two years later, only about 400 girls received the name, or about .02 percent. (“Hillary”, by the way, made a small but brief comeback in 2008).

The figures in both years seem low, given the size of the country. But remember that Americans get creative with their kids’ names. There were about 1.84 million girls who received Social Security cards in 1992, and their parents picked at least 15,000 different name iterations, from Aaisha to Zykeia. Ashley was most popular with about 38,000 applications (or roughly 2 percent of the listed names).

Perhaps Hillary would be slightly more popular if parents conformed (or could spell). In 1992, for example, a few hundred poor souls got these iterations of Clinton’s name: Hilliary, Hillery, Hillari, Hillarie and Hillaree. Also: Hilary.

My name — Matthew — has taken a roller coaster ride, too. It peaked in 1983, with about 50,000 boys receiving it — roughly 2.8 percent of the 1.8 million boys who received Social Security cards with that birth year. What caused the name’s rise? Perhaps I’ll never know, though my mother picked it not from the New Testament but from a John Denver song.

Thanks, Mom. (At least you spelled it correctly).

Want to see your name? Tell me in the comments.

New Show, Knife Raise O.J.’s Google Profile

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Crime, News

More than 20 years after his blockbuster murder trial, O.J. Simpson is back in the news — this time after Los Angeles police reportedly found a knife on the grounds of his former estate.

O.J. Simpson

O.J. Simpson

According to the Los Angeles Times, a retired police officer “has handed over a knife given to him by a construction worker who helped raze Simpson’s mansion in 1998.” The knife, which could have been used in the slayings of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, is now being tested by the police.

The news comes a month after a new television show dramatizing his sensational trial began airing on FOX.

The renewed interest in Simpson, now serving a prison term in Nevada for an unrelated robbery and kidnapping case, is reflected in online search traffic, according to Google Trends.

This graph shows search volume since 2004. Traffic has been relatively dormant over the years except for spikes, like in September 2007, when Simpson was arrested in Las Vegas on multiple felony counts after an altercation over sports memorabilia. Another spike in late 2008 reflects his conviction at trial. He’s now serving out a 33-year-term but is eligible for parole next year.

Searches for his name spiked significantly after the new show, starring Cuba Gooding Jr., began airing Feb. 2.

Regional trends are also evident in the searches. This map shows that searches in Nevada and the Las Vegas metro area more common than in other parts of the country. That makes sense because of the location of his trial and incarceration.

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Someday O.J. Simpson will no longer capture the collective imaginations of Americans. Today is not that day, apparently.

“Bernie Baby” and the Decline of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: News, Policy & Politics

“Bernie Baby,” a Los Angeles infant who gained attention on social media after his mother dressed him like Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, has died, the Associated Press reports.

The apparent cause of death was sudden infant death syndrome, according to a family member. Oliver Jack Carter Lomas-Davis was just shy of four months old.

Such stories are terrifying, especially for parents who, like me, are caring for an infant. But they are relatively rare, according to the Centers for Disease Control. About 3,500 infants die in the U.S. each year from sudden, unexpected causes — about 40 percent of which are later determined to be sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS.

This graph, created by the agency, shows the rate of sudden unexpected infant deaths, or SUIDs, from 1990 to 2014. Such cases involve three main categories, the most high profile being SIDS. It dropped from 130.3 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 38.7 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2014.

Trends in Sudden Unexpected Infant Death Rates by Cause, 1990-20

The overall drop could be attributed to increased public awareness, including two government safety campaigns initiated in the early 1990s, according to the agency.

Charting Billions of (Endangered?) $100 Bills

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

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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.