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Posts tagged with: "UNRATE"

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Most unemployment measures are declining…

...while long-term unemployment is still rising

Many of us follow the unemployment rate closely, even more so since the pandemic began. But there are many definitions of unemployment, which depend on how people are attached to the labor force. To learn more, see this earlier blog post and this conversational account of unemployment measures.

Today’s FRED graph shows the recent evolution of 6 measures of unemployment. All increased dramatically, but not uniformly: The lines didn’t move in a parallel fashion—that is, the distance between them didn’t remain constant. Rather, the lines fanned out, showing that it wasn’t one particular type of unemployment that was responsible for the overall surge.

One detail worth noting, though, is that the long-term unemployed, which by definition take some time to accumulate, are still increasing, while all other unemployment groups are decreasing.

As of August, the long-term unemployed made up 5.1% of the labor force. And if the long-term unemployment rate stays high, the general unemployment rate must stay high, too. If the previous recession is any indication, reducing long-term unemployment may take a long time. Adjust the graph sliders to include the time period of the previous recession, and you’ll see what we mean.

How this graph was created: From the Alternative Measures of Labor Underutilization release table (A-15) from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Employment Situation release, select all (seasonally adjusted) series and click “Add to Graph.” Adjust the sample period as you wish.

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.

View on FRED, series used in this post: U1RATE, U2RATE, U4RATE, U5RATE, U6RATE, UNRATE

Take note: FRED has updated some series names

The FRED Team has just automated the process of how it names many of its data series. Because FRED aggregates data from 89 different sources, choosing the right name for any of the 627,000 data series is no small matter. Yes, the Bard wrote “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” But in the world of data, a confounding name can be a thorny problem.

Let’s choose a common example. The data series for the unemployment rate in the U.S. is collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). But the media can choose to report the data with a variety of names: national unemployment rate, civilian unemployment rate, official unemployment rate, harmonized unemployment rate, or U3.

The FRED graph below shows two series: the unemployment rate (from the BLS) and the harmonized unemployment rate (from the OECD). Why do we see only one line? Because the series are one and the same. So, what is the correct name for the unemployment rate data series? The answer depends on the source of the data. So, FRED will now display the series name as reported by the source of the data from the most comprehensive machine-readable location.

In the case of the BLS, that location is series LNS14000000. The series is accessible through the LABSTAT public database, which contains current and historical surveys and press releases. For the BLS series LNS14000000, the name of the data series is “unemployment rate,” so FRED will call it simply that: unemployment rate.

Although the FRED data series identifiers have not changed, there are 2,782 data series names that have changed. For a complete list, see this CSV file. You’ll notice that many data series in FRED related to the consumer price index now have updated names.

Suggested by Diego Mendez-Carbajo and Maria Arias.

View on FRED, series used in this post: LRHUTTTTUSM156S, UNRATE

One rate does not rule them all

Unemployment is uneven across U.S. counties

The graph above shows the annual civilian unemployment rate from 1948 to 2018, and here are some highlights: Ten years ago, after the Great Recession, the U.S. unemployment rate peaked at 9.6%. (The only higher unemployment rate in this series was 9.7%, in 1982.) It gradually came down to 3.9% in 2018, the lowest in fifty years. (The rate in 1969 was 3.5%.)

But these national unemployment numbers mask the variation that exists across different regions in the U.S. Fortunately, we have GeoFRED to paint a clearer picture: The map below shows the unemployment rate for 2018 for 3,133 U.S. counties. The counties are split into two equally sized groups according to their unemployment rates: Those with lower unemployment are in blue, and those with higher unemployment are in red. Specifically, the blue group had a rate lower than 3.87%, and the red group had a rate between 3.87% and the maximum of 18.08%. (By the way, all counties in New Hampshire are blue and all counties in Arizona are red.) 

The map reveals that unemployment rates are unevenly distributed across the nation. Many counties in the Midwest have lower-than-average unemployment rates. In particular, Iowa and Nebraska counties, with only a few exceptions, are blue. In contrast, it’s not surprising to see that the Rust Belt region—e.g., Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio—is home to many counties with high unemployment rates. There are also many red counties in the Sun Belt and on the West Coast, which have rates higher than the national average.

With only the national average unemployment rate and without a county-level view, we wouldn’t know that lower unemployment rates concentrate in the Midwest and higher rates spread out over the rest of the nation.

How these graphs were created: For the first graph, search for and select “Civilian Unemployment Rate (UNRATE).” From the “Edit Graph” panel, select “Percent” for “Units” and modify the frequency to be “Annual.” Choose “Average” for “Aggregation Method.” For the map, go to GeoFRED and click the “Build New Map” button. From the “Tools” bar, select “County” as “Region Type” and “Unemployment Rate” as “Data.” Select “Annual” as “Frequency” and “Percent” as “Units.” Select “2018” as “Date.” In “Choose Colors” tab, select “rdbu” from “Divergent” and click on “Reverse Color Scheme.” From the “Edit Legend” tab, select “2” for “Number of Color Classes” and “Fractile” as “Interval Method.”

Suggested by Sungki Hong.

View on FRED, series used in this post: UNRATE

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