Labor Market Distributions Spider Chart

The Labor Market Distributions Spider Chart is designed to allow monitoring of broad labor market developments by comparing current conditions to those in up to two earlier time periods that the user selects. Distributions of the labor market variables are constructed over a time period that the user also selects, with the inner and outer rings representing the minimum and maximum values of each of the variables.

The three dashed gray rings in the chart represent the 25th, 50th, and 75th percentiles of the distributions, respectively. Indicators of labor market status are broken up into five groups: Employer Behavior, Confidence/Perceptions, Utilization, Wages, and Flows.

Data in the chart are updated twice monthly: once for the monthly Bureau of Labor Statistics employment report, and again for the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) update.

  • Chart

    Use the menus below to change the range of data and individual data series you'd like to view. To save this chart as an image or PDF document, select an option from the "Export" menu. See our modifications to the spider chart, noted in red in the first passage under the Indicators tab, in response to the impact of COVID-19 on the labor market.


  • Frequently Asked Questions

    1. Why does the Federal Reserve care about employment?

    Section 2A of the Federal Reserve Act states, "The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and the Federal Open Market Committee shall maintain long-run growth of the monetary and credit aggregates commensurate with the economy's long run potential to increase production, so as to promote effectively the goals of maximum employment, stable prices, and moderate long-term interest rates." This part of the Federal Reserve Act is often referred to as the Fed's "dual mandate." Basically, it states that the Federal Reserve's monetary policy has the goals of stable prices and maximum employment. The gap between the unemployment rate and the estimated normal rate of unemployment is the most popular statistic that measures the degree to which the Federal Reserve has achieved the goal of maximum employment.

    2. What is the basic idea behind the spider chart?

    The spider chart uses 15 measures of labor market activity. Where necessary, the indicators are transformed so that they do not have a clear upward or downward trend, either by dividing by the size of the labor force or, in the case of the two wage/compensation measures, conversion to 12-month growth rates. Indicators like the unemployment rate, where larger values correspond to a weaker labor market, are multiplied by -1.

    After these transformations, the indicators are rank-ordered over a fixed sample period and assigned to the value of their cumulative distribution function. For example, the maximum value is assigned 100, the minimum is assigned zero, and the median is assigned 50. The values of the cumulative distribution function are then plotted in the spider chart. The outer- and inner-black circles correspond to the maximum and minimum values of the indicators, respectively, while the fainter gray circle in between corresponds to the median values of the indicators.

    3. How do you handle ties?

    This is best illustrated by example. Suppose the data considered are the 11 numbers consisting of each of the counting numbers from zero to 7 and the number 8 repeated three times. For each of the numbers k between zero and 7, k is assigned the value 10 times k. The repeated three values of 8 are arbitrarily ordered and preliminary assigned their three percentiles in the cumulative distribution: 80, 90, and 100. Each of the three 8s is then assigned to the average of these three percentiles: 90 = (80+90+100)/3. In this example, none of the numbers are assigned to the largest possible value in the spider plot of 100 since there are ties at the maximum value.

    4. How did you choose the start dates of the sample periods for the distributions of the labor market indicators?

    We do not use data prior to January 1994, as a major redesign of the Current Population Survey was introduced at this date so that methodologically consistent time series for both marginally attached workers and part-time workers for economic reasons cannot be constructed over a period beginning before this month. The earliest and default sample start dat