Geography of Jobs- Updated through November 2011

October 30, 2011

The Geography of Jobs data visualization we first created in the spring of 2008 has been updated through November 2011 (Now updated through May 2012). The animated map shows the net change in jobs over a rolling 12-month period in the top 100 metropolitan areas (by population). In layman’s terms, the size of the bubbles on the map represent the net change in jobs from April ’09 to April ’10 (for example), and so on.

About the Map
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. The animation highlights a number of concurrent trends leading up to the Great Recession, as well as evidence of a recovery.

The Dot-Com Bust & Recovery
The timeline begins in 2004 as the national economy recovered from 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: manufacturers shed jobs while other parts of the country were adding them.

The Housing Bubble & Hurricane Katrina
The nation’s appetite for new homes is also evident. During the middle of the decade, job growth related to construction and real-estate occurred in Sun Belt states, such as California, Florida, Georgia, and Arizona. The map also captures 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.

The Downturn Begins
By 2007, regional evidence of the coming economic downturn began to appear. Employment growth in California and Florida waned, with actual losses becoming evident in Los Angeles and Tampa. Layoffs also accelerated in the nation’s manufacturing heartland. By the first quarter of 2008, job losses in the Southeast and Midwest spread, setting off a chain of losses in neighboring areas. The same pattern was seen on the West Coast, with the epicenter in Los Angeles marching eastward to the Front Range of the Rockies.

Manhattan is an Island. Or is it?
As much of the nation was showing clear signs of entering a recession, New York City continued to boom as the flow of easy credit stimulated employment growth in the nation’s financial center. In late spring 2007, however, the financial bubble burst and New York experienced severe losses. Texas benefited from the run-up in oil prices through the middle of 2008, but began to recede by January 2009 as the energy and construction sectors weakened.

The Great Recession
Through early and mid-2009, job losses intensified across the country with layoffs peaking in August. At that time, the nation’s largest metropolitan areas New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago had also shed the greatest number of jobs from the previous year. For example, the Los Angeles metropolitan area had seen a net decrease in employment of 426,000. None of the top 100 MSAs had been immune to mass layoffs. The map shows that the bleeding had begun to stop in the fall of 2009.

A Reticent Recovery
In early 2010, the first signs of over-the-year job expansions emerged along the Texas-Mexico border and in Central Texas. By May, gains were seen along the I-95 corridor in D.C., New York, and Boston, and momentum spilled over the Appalachians into the nation’s industrial heartland in June. Net increases also appeared in San Jose and San Diego that summer. Most of the nation’s major metro areas were enjoying net job gains for the first time since before the recession that fall.

As of January 2011, only a few metros, including Atlanta, Memphis, Las Vegas, Sacramento, and Albany were still experiencing net job losses. Notably, many of the remaining red bubbles are in state capitals where budget shortfalls are having a negative impact on their recovery.

Are We There Yet?
While it is encouraging to have visual evidence of our national economic recovery, this does not indicate that all jobs lost during the course of the recession have been regained. Nor does it mean that all those seeking employment can get a job. In the chart below, we see that the total number of unemployed workers remains near a record high as more than 13 million Americans are seeking work.

Chart: Total unemployed in the US (in millions), seasonally adjusted

Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics (Current Population Survey)




The good news: two million fewer workers are seeking employment.

The bad news: six million more people are seeking jobs than at the start of the recession.

Related posts:

  1. Measuring Recovery? Count The Employed, Not The Unemployed
  2. The Geography of Jobs
  3. Deep Recession Sharply Altered U.S. Jobless Map
  4. The Economic Rebound: It Isn’t What You Think
  5. Texas Job Recovery by Industry
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