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Mapping U.S. unemployment claims

Did you know FRED has launched a new map feature?* It’s true. And today we’ll reveal some of the benefits of using data maps by looking at unemployment claims. 

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, unemployment has risen to extraordinary levels, which we can see in the continued claims (insured unemployment) data series. The map above shows these claims, state by state, for the second quarter of 2020.

At a first glance, it may seem there’s a lot of heterogeneity across states. The largest increases in claims occurred in California, Texas, Illinois, Michigan, Georgia, Florida, Pennsylvania, and New York—each with more than 2.7 million persons continuing to file for unemployment benefits.

The second map shows population by state. The largest states are California, Texas, Illinois, Ohio, Georgia, Florida, Pennsylvania, New York, and North Carolina, each with more than 10 million persons.

So let’s compare the claims and population maps:

  • Michigan is in the group of high unemployment claims but not one of the largest states. So, we can conclude that Michigan had a larger increase in unemployment claims relative to its population as compared with national averages.
  • In a similar way, Ohio and North Carolina are on the list of largest states but not on the list of most claims. So, we can conclude that the pandemic didn’t hit employment in Ohio and North Carolina as hard as it hit the overall U.S. economy.

This exercise shows that data on maps can be very useful for visual inspection. Of course, one has to take care when interpreting the units and control for other factors such as population by state. GeoFRED does have the ability to show some maps in per capita terms when the frequency of both series coincides, which isn’t the case here.

*All FRED data series with geographic characteristics now have a “View Map” button on the northeast side of the graph. Use it to create a new dimension of data visualization, from a time-series perspective to a cross-sectional perspective, with interactive functionality such as mouse-over and zooming.

How these maps were created: From GeoFRED, click on “Build new map” (green button, northeast corner of the screen) and then click on “Tools” (orange cogwheel button, northwest corner). Under “Region” select “State,” under “Data” select “Continued Claims,” under “Frequency” select “Quarterly, end of period,” under “Units” select “Number,” and under “Date” select 2020:Q2. Note that you can also edit the colors, legend, and labels. Repeat the process with population data for the second map, with the exception that the frequency remains “Annual.”

Suggested by Julian Kozlowski.

State-level GDP losses during the pandemic

Mapping the range of economic decline across the U.S.

FRED has the latest state-level GDP data for 2020, and there’s a range of economic decline across the United States.

This GeoFRED map shows regional differences in how state economic growth has been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak—from 8% declines in Nevada and New York to a 1.3% slump in Nebraska.

What determines how a state’s economy is affected? This question is complex, as it depends on many factors: the severity of the outbreak, how much confinement was mandated, how seriously it was followed, how many people voluntarily restrained their activity, and the prevalence of economic activities that are most susceptible to shutdowns. Obviously, tourism and entertainment were most affected—with Nevada and Louisiana being important states in this respect and Nebraska much less so.

The situation is still evolving. In about three months, FRED will have data for the second quarter and the map could look very different, hopefully with at least some states showing growth.

How this map was created: From GeoFRED, after opening the cogwheel in the upper left corner, under “Region” choose “State,” under “Data” choose “Total Real Domestic Product by Industry,” under “Units” choose “Compounded Annual Rate of Change,” and then choose colors to taste.

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.

Net worth losses in early 2020 were larger at the top

Your net worth is the difference between the value of your assets and the value of your liabilities.

On average, changes in household net worth are driven by changes in the value of financial assets. And these types of assets differ across classes of household wealth: The least wealthy hold assets mostly in the form of housing and consumer durables, while the wealthiest hold assets through financial vehicles or stakes in businesses.

The FRED graph above shows how the onset of the current economic recession has affected each group differently. Each bar represents the quarter-to-quarter percent change in net worth by wealth quantile. Throughout 2019, net worth increased for all four wealth classes of households. During the first quarter of 2020, net worth decreased for all classes of households but was most marked for the wealthiest 1%. The high volatility of financial markets, which peaked in late March, likely explains this phenomenon.

How this graph was created: From FRED’s main page, browse data by “Release.” Search for “Distributional Financial Accounts” and click on “Levels of Wealth by Wealth Percentile Groups.” From the table, select the “Total Net Worth” series held by each of the four wealth quantiles and click “Add to Graph.” Change the graph units by editing line 1, selecting “Units: Percent change” and clicking “Copy to All.” Last, edit the graph’s format by selecting “Graph type: Bars” and choosing colors to taste.

Suggested by Diego Mendez-Carbajo.

View on FRED, series used in this post: WFRBLB50107, WFRBLN09053, WFRBLN40080, WFRBLT01026


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