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Two data visualizations caught my eye over the past few days; one related to consumer spending and the other focused on the unemployment rate.

The first comes via Nathan Yao over at FlowingData, who has put together an interactive data visualization that depicts spending patterns by U.S. consumers over the past 25 years (data courtesty of the Bureau of Labor Statistics).  You can compare spending across the various categories or click on a single category and see how consumers have (or have not) altered their spend.  What’s most interesting is that for many categories, spending patterns have barely shifted since the mid-1980’s.  What isn’t clear is what is actually driving the change in relative spending.  I would suspect that to some extent the data reflects changes in consumer behavior, but it is also likely capturing shifts in the relative cost of various items (e.g. apparel spending decreased, but so did its cost relative to other items).

The second was published by the Wall Street Journal on the heels of the recent jobs report, which showed a drop in unemployment and drastic slow down in the rate of job loss. As a companion to their coverage, the Journal published an interactive chart that plots the monthly U.S. unemployment rate going back to 1948. Scroll over each cell to see the recorded unemployment rate for each month. Additionally, you can choose to view previous recessions overlayed on the data (marked by circles–see below). Two things immediately struck me: 1) it put into perspective how rare an unemployment rate above 10% has been in the U.S. over the past 51 years; and 2) if the current data does indicate that we’ve reached the nadir of unemployment (which I am not convinced we have), we will have only experienced two consecutive months of 10%+ unemployment compared to the recession of the early 1980’s, which experienced 10 consecutive months of 10%+ unemployment.

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