WASHINGTON -- For each one of the 12.7 million officially unemployed Americans, joblessness is a particular agony.
But the overall number is actually an understatement, because it doesn't count Americans who have given up looking, or are working part time because they can't find anything else.
It also aggregates too much. The fact is that some segments of the population are not having serious employment challenges, even in the current economy. Other segments, however, were facing unemployment in the first place and have been utterly ravaged by the recession.
A new data visualization of unemployment numbers from the Remapping Debate website makes it easy to see how differences in employment rates are magnified through the examination of different populations.
For example, Remapping Debate's Mike Aliberti, who created the data visualization, points out that the 12-month moving average of the official unemployment rate for whites is currently 6.9 percent, compared to 15 percent for blacks. So the black unemployment rate is 117 percent higher than the white rate.
And such disparities can become even greater when gender is considered. The average unemployment rate for white women is 6.6 percent, but for black men it is 16.7 percent. That latter rate is 153 percent higher than the former.
The same goes for age, as younger people are generally more likely to be unemployed than older people, and thus further exacerbates inter-group differences. So the average unemployment rate for white women between 41 and 54 is 5.6 percent, while for black men between 16 and 25, the rate shoots up to 29.9 percent, or 434 percent higher.
Education also plays a large role. For white women between 41 and 54 with at least a bachelor’s degree, the average unemployment rate was just 3.6 percent. For black men between the ages of 16 and 25 with less than a high school degree, however, it was 45.8 percent -- or 1,172 percent higher than the comparison group.
Here is a small version of the Remapping Debate data visualization. To create your own composites and compare results, open a new window.