Community Indicators for Your Community

Real, lasting community change is built around knowing where you are, where you want to be, and whether your efforts are making a difference. Indicators are a necessary ingredient for sustainable change. And the process of selecting community indicators -- who chooses, how they choose, what they choose -- is as important as the data you select.

This is an archive of thoughts I had about indicators and the community indicators movement. Some of the thinking is outdated, and many of the links may have broken over time.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Unemployment and Job Loss Data

We now have a new source for trying to understand underemployment numbers. The standard unemployment data we use obscure a significant number of workers and don't tell a complete story. Our friends at the Community Action Network (CAN) in Austin, Texas describe the issue this way:

The official unemployment rate includes people without a job who are available to work and who have actually sought work in the past four weeks. Discouraged workers and under-employed part-time workers who want full employment are not included in this rate. For the first time, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is releasing "labor underutilization rates" by state that do include these populations.

So what does that mean for your state? In Florida, while the official 2008 unemployment rate was 6.1 percent, by using a broader definition that includes discouraged workers and the underemployed we get a much higher percentage, nearly double, at 11.9 percent. Check out the BLS data sets for yourself. The other thing that would make this more useful for community planning is if they had the data available at the community level. But this is a good start.

CAN also wanted to make sure we knew about another resource. I looked at this last month, couldn't get it to work for me, and gave up -- but maybe this will work for you. At Slate magazine they have a map for you to play with to see county-by-county job losses. They describe the map this way:

Using the Labor Department's local area unemployment statistics, Slate presents the recession as told by unemployment numbers for each county in America. Because the data are not seasonally adjusted for natural employment cycles throughout the year, the numbers you see show the change in the number of people employed compared with the same month in the previous year. Blue dots represent a net increase in jobs, while red dots indicate a decrease. The larger the dot, the greater the number of jobs gained or lost. Click the arrows or calendar at the bottom to see each month of data. Click the green play button to see an animation of the data.

Now, if I wasn't having problems with my flash player every time I went to this site, I'm sure that's exactly what I'd see. This gives us more localized information, so this may be a useful resource for your community.

And thanks for the updates! Keep sharing this kind of information!


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