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Go west, young worker! (Or maybe south)

Examining 40 years of internal U.S. labor migration

In 1876, as folks were heading west to “grow with the country,” the Transcontinental Express made a record 83-hour train trip from New York City to San Francisco. FRED’s data don’t typically go back that far, but the graph here does show how the U.S. labor force has moved around the country since 1976.

Clearly, there have been many types of positive and negative migration over the country’s history. The graph sheds light on one specific measure: the share of the U.S. labor force residing in each of the four Census regions. Note that these are proportions, so a decrease in a share may still mean an increase in that region’s labor force, as the nation’s population has increased over time. The graph shows that two regions have consistently increased their shares at the expense of the shares of the other two regions. Apparently, folks are still heading west, but also south. The West has had the largest percentage increase over the past 40 years, and the South’s increase is nearly as large: from 18.3% to 23.9% and from 31.6% to 36.9%, respectively. The shares of the labor force in the Northeast and the Midwest have decreased: from 22.9% to 17.6% and from 27.2% to 21.6%, respectively. As this centuries-long migration continues, FRED will continue to provide the historical data for you.

How this graph was created: After searching for “labor force,” look to the the left sidebar to select geography type “Census region.” Check the four series (either seasonally adjusted or not), and click on “Add to Graph.” From the “Edit Graph” menu’s “Format” tab, choose graph type “Area,” stacking “Percent,” and recession shading “Off.”

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.

View on FRED, series used in this post: CMWRLFN, CNERLFN, CSOULFN, CWSTLFN

Losing your job doesn’t always gain you unemployment benefits

Requirements and trends behind unemployment insurance

Being unemployed does not guarantee that you’ll receive benefits from your local unemployment insurance program. Typically, there are eligibility criteria, such as previous work requirements, waiting periods, eligibility periods, and asset tests. These criteria can be stringent, depending on the political choices behind them. The graph above compares the U.S. unemployment rate with the segment of the labor force receiving unemployment insurance benefits. It is very clear that, most of the time, only a minority of the unemployed receive benefits.

The graph below focuses on that segment, showing the proportion of the unemployed that receives insurance benefits. Obviously, there are cyclical variations: At the start of a recession, proportionally more unemployed haven’t yet run out of eligibility. There also appears to be a longer-run trend that has been decreasing the segment of those eligible for benefits.

Update: The insurance claim numbers cover those who get regular state unemployment insurance benefits. There are also those who get benefits under the extended benefit and the emergency unemployment compensation programs, whose proportions tends to be higher during recessions. See this article for an analysis of these details.

How these graphs were created: Search for “unemployment insurance claims” and click on the series. From the “Edit Graph” section, add the “civilian labor force” series and click on “Apply.” Then enter formula a/b/10 (where the 10 makes it a percentage). Then open the “Add Line” tab and search for the unemployment rate; take the monthly, seasonally adjusted series. That’s the first graph. For the second, remove the line you just added, but add that series to the first line and apply formula a/b/c*10.

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.

View on FRED, series used in this post: CCSA, CLF16OV, UNRATE

Tracking economic progress for U.S. states

A map of the Philly Fed's coincident indicators for 2016-2017

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia computes for each U.S. state a coincident indicator that combines information about employment, unemployment, hours worked, and wages. (These are state-level labor market data that are released reasonably quickly.) This coincident indicator has a base of 100 in 1992; thus, the numbers indicate how well each state has performed since 1992. The map shows how well they have performed from December 2016 to December 2017. This means we have to be careful when interpreting these numbers. A state may show great improvements, which is something to celebrate; but it’s important to consider whether those improvements come from climbing out of a hole or from an economy already in great shape. The reverse applies as well: States whose coincident indexes have not grown as strongly may already be doing pretty well. In the end, it is always useful to look at the details of every economic indicator.

How this map was created: From GeoFRED, click on “Build New Map.” Open the cog wheel and the “Choose Data” menu and select “State” as region type and look for the “coincident index.”

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.



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