Data 3 – labour market

Charts and maps that explore work and wages. Each of the visualisations below are interactive – hover over them to reveal more detail and dig deeper.

Who is Employed and Who isn’t?

Over the last 70 years, the US unemployment rate has averaged 5.7% but has skyrocketed around recessions. The 2020 peak stands out but the speed at which unemployment has fallen is almost as dramatic. At the beginning of 2023, the US’s unemployment rate was just 3.7%, lower than any other point in the last 50 years.



You can use the menu below to examine American unemployment rates across different groups: education, age, and race. Education reveals how the unemployment gap between workers with higher and lower levels of education has narrowed over time. The age chart shows the persistent gap between younger and older worker. Race lets you explore how racial disparities in unemployment have developed. What patterns and insights can you find in the data?



The chart shows how youth unemployment varies across the world’s 21 most populous countries. In Brazil, almost a third of young people are unemployed –  a serious problem in a country with a median age of 31. On the other hand, Japan has the lowest rate of youth unemployment at only 4.3%.



Use the menu to see how male and female employment rates in the US and UK have changed since 1948. Women have made significant gains in both countries, but men have seen a decline. What factors explain these trends? What policies and institutions can promote gender equality in the labour market? We will discuss these topics–and find answers–as part of this course.



Dolly Parton sang about ‘workin’ 9 to 5’ as a hard way to make a living, but for some workers, an 8 hour day that would be a dream. The underemployment rate of a country measures the share of its population that are stuck in low-skill and low-paying jobs or only part-time, despite wanting better jobs that match their skills or more hours. Underemployment is a key indicator of the quality of jobs, not just the quantity. Both the US and UK saw a surge in underemployment during the Covid pandemic, but it has fallen sharply in 2021 and 2022.

Incomes – Macro and Micro

US households are among the richest in the world. This average masks important differences, due to sharp income inequality which is exists in most countries. 50 years ago, 95th percentile households made 2.7 times as much as the median but this is figure is now over 4 times. Similar gaps exist among racial groups: the average Asian household income is now more than double that of black households.


Chicago view

Data is not just collected at the economy-wide level: the Census Bureau also compiles incomes for small areas of just a few thousand people. Incomes vary significantly between Chicago and the ‘Collar Counties’ that form its suburbs – the median earner in Lake county makes almost $10,000 more than the median earner in Cook county. Incomes vary even more within the counties. In some tracts of Evanston and Kenilworth in the north of Cook County, median incomes exceed $100,000, while other tracts’ median incomes are less than a third of that. Hover over the chart on the right to update the map and see how incomes have changed over time.



How Efficient is the Labor Market?

The Beveridge Curve of a country measures how well its labor market matches up supply and demand for labor. They are useful measurements for economists to track, as high rates of job openings with low rates of unemployment can help contribute to inflationary pressures as employers compete for scarce workers by increasing wages. This can be observed by the outward shift in America’s Beveridge Curve during Covid – was this a contributing factor the inflation seen in the post-Covid era.



Inequality and Living Standards: Comparing Countries and Policies

The Gini coefficient measures the level of wealth inequality within a country. A Gini coefficient of 1 implies perfect inequality where one person captures all income while a Gini of 0 would be perfect equality. Use the year slider to see how inequality has developed since 1980. Of the world’s 21 most populous countries, 9 have become more equal while many have become far less so. China and India, in particular have become significantly more unequal but also far richer. How should we balance the relationship between inequality and development?


Governments will often support people who lose their jobs by offering welfare, the rate at which this is given often decreases overtime to ensure that people do not become reliant on the state. Most governments offer support that declines over time but others such as France, Australia, and the UK provide a constant level.



Minimum wages are the lowest amount that employers can legally pay their workers–in some countries and states they can be lower than the income needed to cover a family’s basic needs. Living wages are the amount that a full-time worker would need to afford a basic standard of living for themselves and their dependents. In every state, there is a gap between the minimum wage and the living wage – and in Georgia, it’s over $10. Some states have no minimum wage at all (Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee) or have one that is lower than the federal minimum (Georgia and Wyoming), so they follow the federal minimum wage instead. Would higher minimim wages help or hinder the US economy? We debate this question in our class.