Coolest Job Data Visualization You’ll Ever See

October 23, 2014

By: Chris Tomlinson
Via: The Houston Chronicle

Graphic shows how jobs surge and contract across the country

Job data is important to understanding the nation’s economy, but the spreadsheets can be painful to analyze. The economic development consulting firm TIP Strategies, though, has developed a very cool visualization tool to understand how employment surges and contracts over time and geography.

The Greater Houston Partnership recently crowed about adding 600,000 in the first nine months of this year, and that is truly remarkable. But how does this recent boom compare to the last 15 years? When Houston is adding jobs, what is the rest of the country doing?

Hitting the play button, it’s fascinating to watch the pulsing blue circles of added jobs from 1999 to 2002. Dallas and New York added jobs at a much higher rate than Houston. Then a recession hits in 2002 and the whole country begins losing jobs as the dot-com bubble burst. Other parts of the country suffered much more than Houston.

Then in early 2004, Houston lags behind the rest of the nation as the economy takes off elsewhere. This is where you can see how a growing economy demands more energy, and in response, Houston begins adding jobs to meet those needs.

Perhaps most stunning, Hurricane Katrina hits in 2005 and like a bomb, the orange circles of lost jobs explode over New Orleans as thousands of jobs are lost. The number of new jobs in Houston surges as workers flee Louisiana.

Then in 2007, Houston’s job growth begins to lead the rest of the country. The recession hits, and while most U.S. cites, particularly Los Angeles, lays off tens of thoussands of workers each month, Houston continues to add until 2009 when it begins registering losses. The fracking boom takes hold in 2010, and we know the story from there.

The lesson from the data is that Houston has done remarkably well compared to the rest of the country. The reasons are many and debateable. There’s also an intense debate over the quality of those jobs, and the state’s 15.9 percent poverty rate which just dropped to become the same as the national average.

Fundamentally, though, the map is simply very cool, and a reminder of how good Houston has it.