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GIS in Economics: Visualizing Changes in Unemployment Rates (2010 – 2017)

By Justin Sorensen

GIS (Geospatial Information Systems) are utilized by many fields and industries throughout the world. To highlight some of these fields, our Map Monday releases for the 2019 Spring Semester will provide examples of ways GIS can be employed within the work performed by such professionals.

For this map release, we will look at an example of GIS in Economics.

Visualizing Changes in Unemployment Rates (2010 – 2017)

The field of economic geography pursues the study of economic activities through location, distribution, and spatial relationships. It involves branches consisting of agriculture, industry, international trade, resources, transport and communications, and much more. One area that can impact the success of these activities involves labor statistics; in particular, the unemployment rates for locations associated with economic production. This map takes a visual approach to understanding the nationwide unemployment rate by examining changes and improvements over the past several years.

Animation 1 – Choropleth Map
Click on the image to play the animation

Utilizing nationwide county statistics obtained from the Untied States Bureau of Labor / Labor Statistics, a database is first developed containing individual county unemployment rates from 2010 – 2017. Combining this data with a GIS shapefile representing the boundaries of all counties nationwide, a choropleth map is generated for each year. Merging these visualizations into an engaging video presentation, the story of unemployment rates from 2010 – 2017 becomes clear to the viewer.

What do the results of this visualization show us? Within the time frame of 2010 – 2017, we instantly see that the highest unemployment rates occurred in 2010, following the economic recession which took place in years prior. We can further see that while unemployment rates have continued to drop during this time frame, certain areas continue to experience higher unemployment rates than those found in other areas throughout our Nation. The results of this type of visualization can be utilized by professionals to take action and remedy the unemployment problem associated with these particular areas.

Interested in learning more about GIS in other fields? Check out our collection of past Map Monday releases @

About Map Monday from GIS Services:

Throughout the semester, GIS Services will be releasing bi-weekly maps on a variety of topics, demonstrating ideas and uses for incorporating geospatial technology into research and projects you are developing. To view our collection of maps, projects, or to learn more about the geospatial services offered through the J. Willard Marriott Library, please visit the GIS Services website @

Happy Mapping!

Justin Sorensen | GIS Specialist
Creativity & Innovation Services / GIS Services

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