Charting the GOP’s Congressional Exodus

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Policy & Politics

Another Republican in the U.S. House — Speaker Paul Ryan, no less — announced his intention not to seek re-election in 2018, adding to the number of members leaving ahead of what’s expected to be an unfavorable mid-term environment for the party.

Even before Ryan’s announcement, HuffPost reported that the number of GOP congressmen leaving the chamber, either for retirement or other offices, has hit numbers not seen in decades. His exit is likely to increase that number soon.

This chart shows how the GOP members’ announcements over this cycle have cumulative outpaced their Democratic counterparts:

And here’s a breakdown of retirements, by party, over the years:

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.

Tracking Historical Twitter Followers: @elisewho vs. @stiles

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Social Media

My wife (@elisewho) and I (@stiles) had a silly social media moment yesterday when I replied to one of her tweets — despite the fact that she was sitting in an adjacent room of our Seoul apartment.

USC professor Robert Hernandez (a.k.a. @webjournalist) captured it:  

The exchange, which we both “liked”, got me thinking (resenting?) about why she is killing me in Twitter followers — even though we’ve been using the service for nearly a decade.

It’s not even close, according to snapshots captured by The Wayback Machine (which didn’t start tracking me until I’d been on Twitter for years):

You can track your own follower counts over time with this tool.

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.

Visualizing Income Equality in Major World Economies

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

Years after a global crisis, the world’s largest economies are again growing, The New York Times reported over the weekend.

Every major economy on earth is expanding at once, a synchronous wave of growth that is creating jobs, lifting fortunes and tempering fears of popular discontent.

A tweet on the subject prompted a friend to respond with a question about whether income inequality has grown — and that in turn prompted a quick exploration of data provided by the World Bank.

One of its many indicators is the GINI index, which measures income distribution by country and creates a score. A 0 score means absolute equality, and 100 represents absolute inequality.

These data, based on country-by-country surveys, are imperfect and incomplete, with most countries missing several years of data. The United States, for example, had only five annual estimates in the last two decades. South Korea, where I live now, had only four. Strangely, a few smaller countries had more complete data. Honduras had all but one year, for example.

Given these limits, I focused on the top-25 economies, some of which were missing scores. In these cases, I carried over the most-recent data to maintain a consistent, if imprecise, trend line.

The data are interesting in some cases. Here are the countries, listed in order of their gross national product rankings:

The Curious Case of South Korea’s Vanishing Washing Machine Exports

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

The Trump administration last week announced that it planned to impose higher fees, known as tariffs, to countries that export washing machines and solar panels the United States.

The tariffs, prompted by complaints from American companies who feel disadvantaged by global trade, were applied across the world — even though they seem primarily aimed at two nations who dominate the market: China and South Korea.

That’s in part because both countries have moved their manufacturing around to avoid such duties. In South Korea’s case, the change in strategy by companies like LG and Samsung seems remarkably obvious in trade data — on washing machines, in particular.

A bit of background: The U.S. Census Bureau keeps detailed data on specific product exports, by country, to the United States. The data reflect the total export value by year and national origin — where the ships came from, essentially — not by companies’ home countries. So Samsung products made in China and exported from China look like Chinese exports.

This graphic shows one possible scenario for how the strategy played out. Washing machine exports from South Korea to the United States dropped dramatically, for example, after a complaint filed in late 2011 by Whirlpool, an American manufacturer. A year later, exports from China increased significantly (and have since fallen, perhaps reflecting other shifts in manufacturing locations, such as Southeast Asia, Mexico and/or the United States itself).

The Times’ story noted the South Korean companies’ concerns:

Samsung and LG described Whirlpool’s case as a protectionist grab designed to shut out products that American consumers find more attractive, and argued that such restrictions on their products would hurt consumers by raising prices.

The export change appears to be because South Korean washing machine companies moved their operations to China during 2013 — and later the the United States — perhaps in an effort to avoid the complaints or looming tariffs. Or because the change was good business for the companies.

Anyway, the data seems pretty obvious:

Common Ground Between North and South Korea: Aging and Shrinking Populations

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Demographics, North Korea, South Korea

The birth rate in South Korea, where I live and work, hit a record low this year, leading to concern about the impact an aging (and, eventually, shrinking) population might have on the nation’s society and economy.

These charts show the long-term trends, both in actual population and projected changes, according to United Nations data. I’ve added North Korea, which actually has a higher fertility rate today, for context.

First, let’s look at the populations of the two countries, which share an ethnic background and a (mostly) common language — despite the Korean War-era division of the peninsula.

South Korea has about 51 million residents, roughly twice the number of people in the North, which has 25 million. That’s the number of South Koreans who love in the Seoul metro area, by the way.

Both populations are expected to peak in two decades — and then begin to decline.

That downward trend, for now, is much more pronounced in South Korea because of the nation’s low birth rate. Having a large family in South Korea, where housing and education costs are pricey, isn’t possible or practical for many people. The nation also has relatively weak maternity leave policies (and stubbornly traditional gender roles in the home and workplace), leading women to postpone childbirth to pursue their careers.

South Korea is slightly smaller geographically (about the size of Indiana, in terms of area) than the North (roughly the area of Pennsylvania). So their respective population densities vary, too:

Here’s how South Korea has grown, in five-year-increments, since 1950 — when the Korean War began and ultimately changed the trajectories for both countries. South Korea saw relatively rapid growth rate immediately after the war, perhaps as refugees resettled. Projections show that rate declining by 2035:

The North experienced a rapid decline during the war, mostly likely from the death toll during the conflict, the political purges that followed — and the southern migration before the border was secured. Its growth rate soon recovered, however, but could begin declining again by 2045.

Here’s hoping the Korean fertility rate rebounds, or the two nation’s unify — or either becomes more welcoming and accommodating of immigrants. At things stand now, South Korea could become “extinct” by 2750 — a worrying (though simplistic and imperfect) simulation for a uniquely homogenous society that traces its roots back thousands of years.

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.

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: