The US economy in general has gone on a rollercoaster ride since the onset of the pandemic. Unemployment is one specific bumpy example: In April 2020, the unemployment rate was higher than it had ever been, but by December 2022 it was close to a record low.
We could ask many related questions here, but today we look at the unemployment rates across US states during this extreme episode.
The FRED map above shows the unemployment rate for each state in December 2022, the last date available at the time of this writing. We see quite a bit of variation, from 2.2% in Utah to 5.2% in neighboring Nevada. To look for big patterns, we can use the squinting-eye technique (patent pending!) to see the general distribution of color. In this map, the unemployment rate is higher (darker) in the Rust Belt and the West and lower (lighter) in the central and Mountain areas.
The second map also shows the unemployment rate for each state, but back in April 2020, when it was much higher everywhere. In fact, the lowest rate in April 2020 (Wyoming, 5.4%) was higher than the highest rate in December 2022 (Nevada, 5.2% ). By the way, in April 2020, the highest rate is again in Nevada (28.5%).
And what does the squinting-eye technique show us here? Again, the unemployment rate is higher (darker) in the Rust Belt and the West and lower (lighter) in the central and Mountain areas. In other words, at least in this particular economic episode, the whole nation seems to have gone up and down while maintaining its broad state-to-state differences.
How these maps were created: Search FRED for the unemployment rate. Click on any state rate, then click on “View Map.” To have the color span the unemployment rates over the two very distinct time periods, change the date to 2020-04-01, click on “Edit Map,” change the number of color groups to four, write down the interval values, and repeat for 2022-12-01. Now change the number of color groups to eight and select data grouped by “user defined method.” Enter all eight interval values. You have the first map. Change the date to 2020-04-01 and you have the second map.
Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.