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Deep dive

The chart on the right which compares the unemployment picture across past recessions has many good features.


It uses a very sensible metric, counting the percentage change from peak employment.  I have mentioned the superiority of this type of presentation compared to plotting a time series of unemployment rates.  The following is an example of a standard graphic using gray bands to indicate recessions.  The difference is obvious.


Here is the previous post that dealt with the drop in market capitalization of banks since the peak which screamed out for this type of treatment.

It handles the foreground-background issue very well.  A number of similar charts is circulating in which every single line has a different color.  Here, the designer clearly tells us the current recession is the foreground and all the past recessions form the background.  It looks as if the 1981-3 recession is slightly highlighted with a darker orange to draw attention to the fact that it is most similar to the current situation.  I find this unnecessary because the association is clear even without the darker hue; however, the designer does this with a very light touch so this is just a question of taste.

I would label the horizontal axis starting at 0. 

Reference: "Job Losses Hint at Vast Remaking of Economy", New York Times, Mar 8 2009.


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The FRB of Minneapolis has had similar charts that they've been updating monthly, although they tweak the format occasionally.

The interesting question is whether we should count 1948, as the FRB charts do. That recession still exceeds the current one, and it must have been particularly scary coming after the Depression and World War II. Many news articles do not.

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