Open data and maps tell the local story of unemployment and recovery spending

Washington-based DevelopmentSeed continues to tell dazzling data stories with open source mapping tools. This week, they’ve posted a map of the local impact of unemployment and recovery spending. The map visualizes unemployment rate changes at a county level and folds in total economic recovery spending by the government under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. In the map embedded below, red corresponds to an increased unemployment rate and green corresponds to a lower unemployment rate or job growth. Counties that received less than $10 million dollars in recovery spending have a white pattern.

David Cole explains more in a post at

Over the last year, we see that unemployment dropped in 58% of counties by an average of 0.25 percentage points. On average the Recovery Act funded 31 projects at a total of $24,131,582.47 per county. Nationally this works out to about $282.66 in recovery spending per person.

Overall, it’s impossible to tell for sure how much recovery spending improved the economic situation, because we just don’t know how bad things could have been. It may be the case that without spending, this map would have a lot more red. Or maybe not. What’s interesting here is the local impact and information we are able to see from processing a few sets of open data. Check out how your county is doing compared to its surroundings. How about compared to a more or less urban county nearby?

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About Alex Howard

Alexander B. Howard is a DC-based a technology writer and editor. Previously, he was the Washington Correspondent at O'Reilly Media, where he covered the voices, technologies and issues that matter in the intersection of government, technology and society. If you're feeling social, you can follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook or circle him on Google Plus In addition to corresponding for the O’Reilly Radar, he has contributed to the Huffington Post, Govfresh, Mashable, ReadWriteWeb, National Journal, The Atlantic, CBS News and Forbes. He graduated from Colby College with a bachelor's degree in biology and sociology. Currently, he is a resident of the District of Columbia, where he lives with his greyhound, wife, power tools, plants and growing collection of cast iron pans, many of which are frequently used to pursue his passion for good cooking.

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