US Economic Census Treemap

Now that I’ve got treemaps on the brain, I keep noticing how many things could be better understood using this visualization technique. A few examples:

treemap ideas

We thought it would be a nice demonstration to use data from the 1997 and 2002 US Economic Census (unfortunately 2007 isn’t out yet) to see what kind of stories bubble forth. The demonstration was built using a component from JuiceKit™, our recently open sourced Software Development Kit (SDK) for building Information Experience™ applications. The SDK can be used by web designers and developers to build graphically rich and interactive information displays. JuiceKit™ currently integrates with Adobe Flex to create components that are easy to implement and aesthetically pleasing.

Check out the treemap here.

US Economic Census Treemap

Here are a few of the macro-trends that I found:

  • The rise of CostCo, Amazon, and Home Depot: This time period saw strong growth in warehouse clubs and superstores, online retailers (“electronic shopping”), and home centers.
  • From manufacturing to services economy: Most of the growth was in service sectors (financial services, healthcare, professional services) while manufacturing was shrinking.
  • Productivity gains, even in adversity: For struggling sectors, the employee declines almost always outpaced the sales declines — squeezing more sales per employee.
  • Demographic shifts: Homes and services for the elderly were among the strongest areas of growth in the category of “healthcare and social assistance.”

And there were lots of little insights as well:

  • No wonder hospital TV shows are so popular: Hospitals are the largest single employer as a business-type.
  • Starbucks and Krispy Kreme steal the unhealthy food dollar: Cookies and frozen yogurt retail saw a rapid decline while coffee and donut shops flourished.
  • Goodbye stand-alone pump: Gas stations with convenience stores overtook the just-plain gas station.
  • It can’t last, can it?: Mortgage broker payroll up 177%.

Once you understand how to read treemaps, they are great for exploring data like this: hierarchical with both quantity and quality-type measures. In a true testament to their power, my wife admitted this visualization was “kinda interesting.”