June 20, 2014

Chart of the Week: Another way to see employment

FT_upshot-employment-population-ratios-trend

 

While unemployment continues to fall throughout the United States, and the economy has recovered all the jobs lost in the Great Recession, almost no one would argue that the U.S. jobs situation is where it should be. One big reason: The share of adults who actually have jobs (58.9%) is still well below its pre-recession level (62.7%).

While that’s overall trend is true in every state, there’s considerable variation in both how much employment ratios fell during the recession and how much they’ve since rebounded, as this nifty chart from The New York Times’ “The Upshot” blog shows. We liked the way it helps people readily visualize an abstract, and not overly familiar, concept over time, without using the standard trend line.

The full version orders the states from lowest employment ratio (West Virginia, 50.7%) to highest (North Dakota, 69.3%). You can also easily see which states stand out for having made the most progress in rebuilding employment (such as Utah and Maine) or where employment ratios remain near their bottoms (such as Mississippi and New Jersey).

Why, unlike in previous recoveries, has the employment ratio been stuck so long? Economists and other analysts offer a variety of answers, from more formerly employed people giving up on looking for work to a surge in Baby Boomer retirements. But as a Wells Fargo report (referenced by Vox) notes, other advanced economies are facing similar (though less dramatic) declines in employment.

Category: Chart of the Week

Topics: National Economy, Work and Employment

  1. Photo of Drew DeSilver

    is a Senior Writer at the Pew Research Center.

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2 Comments

  1. john armstrong2 months ago

    Thank you for posting…excellent graphic, gives us a deeper perspective.

    Reply
  2. Vinnie4 months ago

    Hmmm…fun with numbers. Employment-population ratio has at least as many problems with it as the unemployment rate, except it can skew things to looking too bleak.

    # of employed adults / # of adults includes those in jail, those who have retired, those who are disabled, and those in military service in the denominator. Looking at some of these states (Arkansas, Mississippi, West Virginia in particular) one or more of those categories could move headline numbers quite a bit.

    It would make a lot more sense (and save a lot of time) to just do a comparison of U-3 and U-6 to make this point. Unless the evidence for the point only exists because of the bias inherent in the chosen metric…

    Reply