The Geography of Jobs

April 6, 2010

Map below has been updated to reflect data through May 2012.

Click on the map to see the animation.

Map Highlights

This animated map provides a striking visual of employment trends over the last business cycle using net change in jobs from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on a rolling 12-month basis. We used this approach to provide the smoothest possible visual depiction of ongoing employment dynamics at the MSA level. By animating the data, the map highlights a number of concurrent trends leading up to the nation’s present economic crisis. The graphic highlights the 100 largest metropolitan areas so that regional trends can be more easily identified.

The timeline begins in 2004 as the country starts its recovery from the 2001 recession, following the bursting of the dot-com bubble. At first, broad economic growth was apparent across most of the country. Two notable exceptions are the Bay Area — the hub of the tech boom that drove job growth during the prior decade — and several metropolitan areas within the Midwest. The map reveals that much of the industrial Midwest never fully recovered from the previous recession, as manufacturers continue to shed jobs while other parts of the country were adding them in large number.

Equally telling is the short-lived expansion of construction- and real estate-related job growth in Sun Belt states, such as California, Florida, Georgia, and Arizona, during the middle of the decade as the nation’s appetite for new homes increases. During this period, the map also captures the dramatic job losses in New Orleans in 2005 as a result of Hurricane Katrina, as well as the city’s slow recovery driven largely by construction-related employment.

By 2007, regional evidence of the coming economic downturn starts to appear. Employment growth in California and Florida starts to wane, with the first signs of actual losses beginning in the middle of the year in Los Angeles and Tampa. At the same time, layoffs accelerate in the nation’s manufacturing heartland. By the first quarter of 2008, job losses in the Southeast and Midwest begin to spread, setting off a chain of losses in neighboring areas until the two regions unite in recession. The same pattern appears on the West Coast, with the epicenter in Los Angeles marching eastward to the Front Range of the Rockies.

Even as much of the nation was showing clear signs of entering into recession, New York City continued to boom as the flow of easy credit (much of it related to the speculation in the housing sector) stimulated employment growth in the nation’s financial center. In late spring 2007, the bursting of the financial bubble appears with the rapid deterioration of New York’s job market. A stark contrast is offered by solid employment growth in Texas as a result of the run-up in oil prices through the middle of 2008. However, by January 2009, as the energy and construction sectors continue to weaken, job growth in Texas also recedes.

Strategic Response

The animated map makes clear that this recession has not treated all regions equally. But no matter where you are in the country, these trying times require a response. And, communities that have set their priorities — based on a realistic vision and action plan for recovery — will fare better. Not only will this make it easier to access federal assistance in the short term, it will help maintain a perspective on future economic vitality.

For many, the federal stimulus may provide the economic shot in the arm that is critical to stemming catastrophic job and population losses. But these short-term stimulus projects must be conceived, developed, and managed in the context of a longer-term plan for economic health. If the economy is indeed resetting itself, as the data suggest, then communities and regions must commit to a longer-term vision, strategies, and implementation plan.

Our belief is that any successful planning effort should involve three primary tasks:

Task one is to assess and educate. This involves an objective and nonpolitical identification and evaluation of local assets and liabilities. It also involves educating yourself and your local leadership team about the global, national, regional, and local economic environment. How is it affecting your local economy? Which of your local sectors, individual businesses, and organizations are most vulnerable to economic pressure? Which are best positioned to weather the crisis or even do well? Focusing on existing business should be the heart of any economic development strategy. This is especially true in light of current economic conditions.

Task two is to appraise and prioritize infrastructure. This extends to both physical infrastructure and human capital, including the social networks increasingly driven by technology. What is successful? What is sustainable? What must be maintained versus what should be abandoned? What new infrastructure must be developed to position your community for recovery?

Task three is to identify and pursue business development opportunities. Once a community understands the competitive environment and the assets required to compete, it can then look at business development in a fresh light. Current opportunities may be found in the federal stimulus package, national or regional business consolidations, counter-cyclical sectors (e.g., discounters, repair, refurbishing, energy efficiency), and non-primary sectors (e.g., healthcare, education, security, tourism). Specific strategies and actions for pursuing these opportunities must be devised and priorities must be set. In order to implement the plan, local resources and leadership will have to be committed and the public engaged.

Whether it is updating an existing plan to current conditions or starting a plan from scratch, now is the time to bring your local leadership team together to rethink how to support existing businesses and to attract new investment, people, and jobs. TIP Strategies has assisted communities and regions throughout the country, both in good times and in bad, to establish a clear vision for economic growth. We offer a fresh approach that integrates community development principles with an understanding of more traditional economic development practices to help communities maximize their potential.

  • Sandy Dochen

    Very fascinating map and process. Thanks for sharing, along with sensible editorial.

  • Congratulations on producing such a compelling graphic

  • Buzz

    Very cool! Great presentation and animation.

  • This is an interesting technology for displaying data. I think the map would be more useful if it dispalyed the percent change in jobs and not total jobs losses/gains. As it is, the large SMAs (NYC, LA)obscure what is going on in smaller ones.

  • Annette Argall

    Kudos, Y’all! Nice job with both map and text! Hope this results in lots of inquiries and projects.

    Greetings from this “Economy of One” in Baltimore,


  • Please forward any information available on the recovery and stimulus package results.

  • Ryan Sharp

    Great visual display. I would suggest an accompanying map which shows annual percent change – this would give a better comparison of performance across metro areas.

  • This is a great map; I wonder how it would look if the statistic mapped were changes in employment as a percent of total employment? For another, more detailed view of employment changes, check out the map at

  • Tom/Mitsu/Team – I love it! This is a great visual. Can you update the tool tip rollovers with the numbers vs. having to re-roll over them to get the new number? Also, are you guys doing any projections into 2010 that mirror the Administrations stimulus plan? (

  • plooger

    Yikes! This animation really helps you see how Katrina and the resulting rise in gas prices hit Detroit in the gut.

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  • Justin

    I wish this was normalized to the respective populations of each metro area.

  • Bethany

    Could you provide a legend designating what the sizes of the circles represent?

  • Creating circles where job loss/gain is related to the circles area rather than its diameter would be more valuable.

  • Am I the only one who thinks it’s strange that there’s no explanation of significance of Green vs. Red?

  • Brandon

    It looks like you’re using diameter, not area, to correspond with # of jobs. If so, that’s very misleading.

  • Mike

    @scrimshaw: actually, in the cartographic world it is recognized that the human brain does not fully grasp the area of two circles: even when one is exactly twice the area of another, they are perceived as being very similar in size. Having said that, scaling by diameter only is also deceiving, but in the opposite direction: it over-emphasizes the differences. There are various formulas that have been proposed that are “middle of the road” solutions to this problem, but nobody agrees on which one is best. Here are some basics on it:

  • I assume green means employment and red means unemployment. Yes, they should say so, though.

  • jinalbert

    Green mean gain.
    Red mean loss.

    That’s why it was so big in 2005-2008

  • Interesting study, however it’s of little value since the elections and the drop off in our economy. Here in West Texas we have lost thousands out of the oil patch.

  • supra

    very nice visual representation

  • wow… that is s great graphical representation of how a bubble blows up then bursts.

  • Mausam


  • Of course, if you are red/green color-blind, then all you see are growing then shrinking circles.

  • Bill

    I am told the colours change (red AND Green)!!!! ???

    Why don’t you use colours that can be seen by people with colour vision defect ?

  • Jim

    I am curious why the unemployment seems to have begun in the Tampa Bay area ? Is there a correlation to other factors ?

  • Nick Fotopoulos

    Neat visual effect, but the result is misleading. You should instead display a job gain/loss per capita, or as a percent changed. The (smaller) cities at the bottom of the 100 list may be in shambles from their job losses, and still hardly show up in this presentation, while a (big) cities at the stop of the 100 may have circles that encompass the entire country and still be doing relatively well.

  • hilmar S Skagfield

    Thanks, so true very good analyses. Doubt it’s understood
    Lived in Fla. for 60 years

  • Erik

    I live in McAllen Tx, (the green dot on the southernmost tip) I had no idea employment was still on the rise here…It’s very comforting to know

  • Valerie

    Wow that is astonishing. Thanks.

  • Arthur Whedon

    Need to differentiate between job types, i.e…white collar & minimum wage should not be thrown toegether

  • Asian link

    Where is Hawaii?

  • Interesting that the impacts in Texas were first delayed and then cushioned… why could that possibly be one wonders?

    Then of course N.Dakota, Montana et al – just continuing along farming. Even when you are out of work, you still need to eat.

  • Jim Gwaltney

    Ummm, one day we will realize, as the rest of the world already does, that until we start buying products made at home in North America, jobs will continue to go overseas. So, what are you driving? I know it’s a BMW or Toyota or Hundai, or Honda, etc, but yes, you have an excuse…… don’t complain about the red circles then.

  • Dannyboy

    I think it is a good visual stimulus in relation to the economy, I would not use it in explaining it to someone who is not familar with the situation. It does get the point across though and leaves a hole is your heart.

  • Yikes! This animation really helps you see how Katrina and the resulting rise in gas prices hit Detroit in the gut.

  • george zietsma

    now what

  • Denisse

    Its a nice visual to see how our nation’s unemployment rate is going up and continues to increase.


    ALL this map shows is How in the cities we need to change from having such a capatilistic culture and focus more on jobs that are stable and that require skills… we need to stop focusing on fast expansion and slow things down. why do we always build up so fast and expand at such a rate that at the end of the day always blows up in our face… leaving more people on the streets without anything… wake up people and stop dreaming. focus on real issues and real requirements… forget about get rich quick…. be with your family and live a decent life…not turning gears of a big machine but of smaller machines in smaller communities……. LIVE

  • This is a terrific map! Shared it with all my peeps.

    Catherine Burton
    Lead Organizer, Silicon Valley WebMapSocial Meetup

  • haha

    Will the last person who leaves Detroit remember to turn the lights off please?

  • economlena

    great visualisation!!!!

  • BCC

    Great chart, but I have an issue with the bubble sizes. It looks like the diameter of 100k jobs is 10x the 10k jobs one. So, the area of the 100k jobs bubble is 100x the size of the 10k one. I think that’s problematic. A linear scale isn’t always the right way to show data, but a squared scale is almost never the right way!

  • Nash

    Amzing work… however thinks this is not good work, do something better then talk..

    Good jobs guys, keep these kind of stuff coming in the future.. its gr8 learning.

  • Felipe

    Great work any way you can drill down by industry or sector?

  • Matthew

    This map is really amazing! I like how it really opens your eyes as you watch the entire movie.

  • KTB

    Think of the individual and family misery that is compounded by loss of employment-based health care that accompanies job loss.

    Lots of people in those red circles have health care needs that will no longer be met. If they are lucky and re-employed, they may not be eligible for health care insurance because of pre-existing conditions.

    Your remarkable graphic is a terrific advertisement for the economic value of a SINGLE PAYER system. Single payer in all other industrialized countries buffers all people, including the suddenly unemployed, from the financial disaster of medical bills.

    Our current cruel system cynically offers the unemployed the opportunity to pay into COBRA at a rate higher than when they had an income. The insurance companies even get their pound of flesh out of people with no income.

  • Lynn

    I’m from the Detroit area, and I work at a welfare, public assistance and employment services firm. Detroit is really suffering right now. Every day I see men and women in business suits crying in our office – even promising to pay the state back, promising that they need just a little bit of help to get through these times. The commute home from work is difficult as well. People have taken to throwing themselves off the I-75 overpasses. If you recall from high school history, suicide rates skyrocketed during the Great Depression. Mo-town is speeding towards that depression at a breakneck pace. Thank you for making this, so that those in other states might be visually impacted by this rather than just the numbers on the news, which often do little to convey the devastation and embarrassment of unemployment.

  • scott

    hit the play button at the top (black arrow)

  • d.white

    I think one of the most important factors left out of this presentation is population. First of all, a vast majority of the American population reside in these areas, therefore there will be more job loss. While Los angeles lost 221,300 jobs, they have over 12 million people living there, and the same can be said on down the line. Jackson Ms lost only 7,100 jobs, the population here is around 138,000 (surrounding included 567,000), so they are for the most part proportionate. The areas that seem to be unaffected are either inhospitable climate with low population and little to no industry, or areas of agricultural and livestock production.

    While these are very unsettling times for most all of us,and I’m excited about coming out on the other side of this, but I can’t help but be a bit cynical. I’ve wondered for quite some time how we were staying on top, when nothing is really made here anymore, and the japanese have long been king of the automotive industry, our financial system corrupt, leadership from a failed oil businessman, isolating ourselves from the world, while starting wars over unfinished dirty work and oil control, and turning a blind eye to the areas of conflict in Africa like Darfur and Somalia, and just showing a general air of arrogance and swagger, that just wasnt there.
    Its time to start again peeps, grass roots, our old plan is broken, we can find a solution together, the time is now.

  • This is a very informative map. It’s an eye opener to see it like that.

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  • Katrina was the most fascinating part of this map, although the current state of things makes even it pale in comparison, great graphic

  • Shava Nerad

    Staggering! Tufterrific! 🙂 Found this through the Utne Reader twitter, and I’ve retweeted it to my network of largely social action engaged network. Even my 16-yr-old son, a history nerd and teenage cynic, had to say WHOA.

  • Does anyone else have a sudden urge to watch WarGames again?

  • steph

    okay. that was scary.

  • wil

    This is not really a true representation…how many employees went from salary or hourly income to commission? The commission income emplyees are not shown..they are not being paid, but they don’t count as unemployed….

  • aksteve

    What about Alaska and Hawaii? Last I read, they are part of the US.
    It would be nice to see since I lived the last 2 years and all of my adult life in both state.

    Alaska is flat or growing over the last five years, but it would be cool to see on this graphic. I still have family in Hawaii, and it is doomsday as far as the tourism is concerned.

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  • jreinholt

    I would like to see a similar employment tracking map that tracks job growth and job loss in the public sector. Fed, state, city county, etc..

  • Peter B

    I too would like to see a similar employment tracking map for the public sector. Fed, state, city, county, etc.

    I am guessing there is little variability.

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  • Philippe

    Whoever built this is a real genious. Thank you. Do you have data for other countries?

  • Steve Ramsussen

    Cool graph. There’s a flaw, however. It appears that you are using diameter to size your circles. Graphically, you should be sizing by area, not diameter. Ypou give a very skewed view of the situation graphically in your display.

  • Holly

    Hey look! It’s our country… bleeding!

  • Rise of the Entrepreneur is here!

  • Sarah

    Very interesting way to see the changes over the last few years.

    On the subject of cars, many “foreign” cars are made in US factories by US workers. You can tell by the VIN. In a time of high gas prices, can you blame ordinary people for seeking out affordable cars with better gas mileage? Still made right here, only the CEOs are on different continents.

  • Pooka

    The problem I see is that “job loss” is mainly U3 unemployment (correct?), and it is mapped onto MSAs. From this map there is no way to determine the long-standing sickness of discouraged workers or underemployment (U6). Lost farm jobs aren’t included (correct?). This obscures the class element of job losses–where, for example, government workers and tenured professors are doing fine, thank you, while less powerful working people in all sectors are getting the shaft. The liberal intelligentsia (the “new class”) is replacing working class employment–and busting unions–simply by handing trillions to banking elites and withholding it from anyone who produces anything real. The map also obscures how much of the “job growth”/creation was in idiotic and meaningless sectors, such as real estate and finance. It’s arguably a GOOD thing those jobs went away, because all they did was contribute to our economy’s downfall. Compare that to job loss in sectors that truly are vital–such as manufacturing–and once lost, will be hard to get back again. Anyone can mint a fiat dollar…or a realtor or a hedge fund maven or for that matter yet another bazillion mouth-breathers with bachelor’s degrees. It’s easy to train and hire a burger chef, a retail clerk, or a tourist-sitter. But reclaiming a lost manufacturing base and its skilled workers is far harder.

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  • James Marquart

    Notwithstanding it’s statistical, dimensional and mathematical shortfalls, and the many insightful qualifications and comments of the other commentators, most of which I agree, this is a fascinating mechanism to convey an impressive picture story.

  • rmx1

    what about jobs kept?

  • rmx1

    p.s. i hate to say i am an optimist, but i truly believe that things could be much worse…

  • Your scales are misleading. You are representing job losses / gains as circular areas, however your scale is merely 1-dimensional; that is the diameter of the circle, and not the area, is what is linearly related to the data. This grossly overrepresents large numbers.

    Please use more caution in considering how you represent your data. While I credit you for the excellent idea, it is misleading.

  • So Texas is carrying the country? Love me some balanced budget even though I think FL has one too.

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  • constantnormal

    An additional change to better capture the driving forces of this economic decline would be residential and commercial mortgage activity, with foreclosures in red and new mortgages in green, using different shades of red and green for each of the employment/residential mortgage/commercial mortgage activity changes.

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  • geopower

    for a map without the jobloss-area scale issue, see Slate’s version of the map:

  • Dang, looks like the old video game ‘Missile Command’, both figuratively and literally.

  • frances snoot

    Shows the effects of the housing bubble in hot spots, especially the explosion of jobs which are then inversely gained to failure. Imagine the nightmare ahead for municipalities is the big green/red bubble areas for tax receipts.

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  • leah

    Is it possible to put this in a powerpoint slide? If so, anyone have any tips on how to do this?

    • admin

      If you have internet access where you are doing your presentation, you could insert an image of the map (just from a screen shot) onto a slide and then insert a hyperlink attached to that image. When you show the presentation, you can then click on the image and it will take you to the map online.

  • leah

    Thanks. The internet connection can be a bit unreliable so I was hoping for a way to embed it?

    • admin

      Actually, we’ve had a couple of requests for that but we don’t have the program written in a way that can be embedded right now. Sorry!

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  • Smaceach

    Southern California is another information technology hub of the USA – map appears to show a resurgence/regrowth in IT development, business development.

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  • Anna Smith

    Use carefully. This visual does not have us coming out of the current recession any time soon. Given the data sources and research on the business cycle, it would be difficult to do. Please be reminded that we are working with a lagging economic indicator here…

  • Bob

    I can’t vouch for the accuracy but I love the graphic impact of 2009, with they’re being few cities in the country with job gains in January; and the total lack of job growth the following two months. I would like to see this graph in its updated form.

    Thanks Bob

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  • plwatts

    I am still working(thank God) but many of my friends and family are not.
    It was still a shock to see nothing gained in the last few months.

  • Very interesting map as the very last image does not show any green spots. Would love to see how 2009 will progress.

  • Muleskinner

    I ilve in northwestern Oregon, and even with 3 degrees; I can’t find a job pumping gas…the map is right.

  • Why did you omit 2 of the most important states, Hawaii and Alaska. We are also a part of the United States of America!!

  • angela martin

    I would be interested in seeing this on a global perspective. As in Europe, etc.

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  • Jeremy

    Very sobering.

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  • Phil

    As a geographer, I find this type of animated map to be quite compelling. A picture is worth a thousand words as the saying goes. Any chance of an updated map with the latest job losses through July?

  • Nessa

    The last map looks like blood. Hope 2009 puts green back on the map.

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  • A similar animation with cumulative gains/losses might be even more telling.

  • PlatypusNinja

    Interesting presentation.
    I think the “rolling 12-month basis” may be misleading — for example, it looks like New Orleans lost 180K jobs in fall 2005, and that red circle persisted for the next twelve months.

    If the economy pulled out of its slump and started improving, it would take a full year for the improvement to show up on this map. Until then all we would see would be that the red circles shrunk slightly.

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  • …..speechless!
    …….lost for words!
    ………I wonder what the UK looks like!

  • I came across this animation some time ago and, like the others, I found it fascinating. Being Canadian, I wondered what the Canadian employment story looks like, especially since our economy tends to follow the US economy. Inspired by this, and the Slate animations, I’ve created an animation that shows the employment trends for both countries ( Sure enough, where you lead, we follow.

  • This is unbelievable. People are not understanding that they HAVE to come up with a plan B!

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  • LaTasha

    Nice visual demonstration…. any way to link to specific industry sectors? Hopefully we can see more green in 2010!

  • Very intriguing map, thanks for posting it.

  • This is amazing. Great work! I’m actually surprised Detroit didn’t develop a larger red bubble.

    Will the country become one giant red bubble at the end of 2009? One must wonder…

  • Thank you! Graphic presentation of data makes the material more vivid and more easily understood. I’d be interested in seeing a similar presentation(s) of global immigration/emigration movement during the last decade.

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  • Petrea Rasmussen

    Beautiful work. As a former cartographer, I appreciate the problems several commenters rightfully pointed out but, nonetheless, it is an effective piece of work. Kudos!

    Now, if I may be so presumptuous: could you incorporate data through February 2010? I do believe that depicting the additional 6 months of continued job losses will add impact as viewers see the large red circles persist instead of simply appearing at the end of this presentation.

    May all who take this in be awakened.

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  • Wayne

    Terrible Data Vis.  Back it look like 50% of the country lost their job in 2009.  You are not representing the truth.

  • Rhoda

    This has been a really eye-opening graphic; thank you very much for this and I appreciate the work that has gone into updating the graphic. Very valuable.

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  • Irish Verde Mundo

    It’s getting worst. The government should do something about it before its too late. system mechanic

  • I found this info to be very depressing! The Midwest Region which we are in, has recoverd yet. 

  • Private Jet Charter

    It’s just amazing to see how some areas suffer from unemployment more than others!Not a big surprise though!

  • Very informative post. I don’t think I’ve come across the angle you present the information in a brilliant way.

  • Very interesting map as the very last image does not show any green spots. Thanks!

  • Very interesting map as the very last image does not show any green spots. 

  • The map also obscures how much of the “job growth”/creation was in
    idiotic and meaningless sectors, such as real estate and finance.

  • This is a very informative map. Thanks for sharing.

  • Sad to see how some areas suffer from unemployment more than others!

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