How are people faring in your neck of the woods?
Interactive map shows how much your state and county are suffering in the recession.
The Great Recession has undoubtedly taken its toll, but how close to home is the pain? You can track it in your county and state with the Economic Stress Index prepared by The Associated Press.
“The thing is fascinating,” said our pal “vh” at Funny about Money, who recently discovered this tool. “As bad off as things are in Michigan, what with the struggles of the automotive industry, things generally are far worse in California. The Imperial Valley has an unemployment rate of 27.7%!”
We love poring over statistical snapshots like this, and not all trace misery. For instance, Bundle.com, a partner site of MSN Money, has released a spending report for all of 2009, including the 25 top-spending cities (Austin, Texas, is tops!), the bottom five cities, and spending info in all 50 states. This stuff is fun. Want to know how much people spend to go out to eat, or how much they’re spending on clothes and shoes, or utilities? It’s all there at Bundle.
The AP interactive map is all about misery. The overall Stress Index ranges from 0 to 100, with 100 being the worst possible scenario. (For how it’s calculated, read here.)
To explain how it works, I looked up the Montana county where I live. It had an overall Stress Index of 5.24 for December, up from 3.83 in October 2007. That’s based on (October 2007 figures are in parentheses):
- Unemployment rate: 4.9% (3.4%).
- Foreclosure rate: 0.05% (0.03%).
- Bankruptcy rate: 0.30% (0.42%).
Numbers like those are yet another reason I’m happy to be living far from the madding crowd. Let’s take a look at some other locations. Here’s Miami-Dade County, Fla.:
- Stress Index: 16.38 (7.33).
- Unemployment rate: 11.3% (4.9%).
- Foreclosure rate: 4.57% (2.10%).
- Bankruptcy rate: 1.21% (0.47%).
Dade is doing better than Wexford County, Mich. Look at these numbers:
- Stress Index: 21.04 (8.54).
- Unemployment rate: 19.3% (7.6%).
- Foreclosure rate: 0.59% (0.07%).
- Bankruptcy rate: 1.58% (0.94%).
An examination of misery would not seem complete without looking at hard-hit Riverside County, Calif.:
- Stress Index: 21.66 (10.34).
- Unemployment rate: 14.3% (6.5%).
- Foreclosure rate: 6.21% (3.51%).
- Bankruptcy rate: 2.53% (0.62%).
But then there’s Lyon County in Nevada, where the numbers for everything other than bankruptcy are worse than those in Clark County, home of Las Vegas:
- Stress Index: 24.93% (7.78%).
- Unemployment rate: 16.5% (6.1%).
- Foreclosure rate: 8.25% (1.06%).
- Bankruptcy rate: 2.02% (0.74%).
The AP map also lets you check for changes month to month.
- Bing: Best U.S. cities
"The tool gives you county-level maps on topics like:
- How many low-income households have no grocery store within one mile?
- Is whole grain much more expensive than refined grain?
- How many farmers markets are there?
- What's the poverty rate?
- Which counties are losing population?
- What percentage of adults is obese?"
Plus, you can find out about food taxes, food prices, restaurant availability, and an assortment of other interesting facts. As Phil observed, if you’re planning to move, this is yet another good source of information.
Check out your county and state, and see how they compare with others. Let us know if you found these tools to be useful or even eye-opening.
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ABOUT SMART SPENDING
Editor Bev O'Shea lives and works in the foothills of the Appalachians. A former copy editor for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Orlando Sentinel, she joined MSN Money in 2007. She's a fan of sunsets, college football and free shipping, among other things.
Having worked as a writer, reporter and editor for more than 25 years, Editor Julie Tilsner is the sort of person who can't help but correct grammar in Facebook postings and on billboards. She's written for BusinessWeek, the Los Angeles Times, Parenting, Redbook, AOL and others. She lives in Los Angeles County with her family and loves to drink wine and practice yoga, although not generally at the same time.
A writer for MSN Money since January 2007, Donna Freedman won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. She also writes about smart money tactics for magazines and on her own site, Surviving and Thriving.
Mitch Lipka has been warning people about scams and shining light on questionable business practices for more than 20 years. Mitch, the consumer columnist for The Boston Globe, has also been a reporter and editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer, Consumer Reports, South Florida Sun-Sentinel and AOL. He won the 2010 New York Press Club award for best consumer reporting online and was honored in 2011 for his reporting on child product safety.
Marilyn Lewis is an award-winning writer with a passion for getting readers clear, straight information that helps them stay out of financial trouble. A former reporter for The San Jose Mercury News, she works from her home in Port Townsend, Wash. Contact her at MarilynLewis@Outlook.com.
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