It’s easy to forget the diversity of workers who keep America chugging. Truck drivers could fill Boston and San Francisco combined, but they’re largely out of sight and mind as they zip across the nation. More than 400,000 miners contribute to our GDP, but they often cluster in rural boomtowns. A new graphic from NPR’s Planet Money shines the klieg lights on America's forgotten workers, putting almost all U.S. jobs next to each other on a single chart.
The jobs are segregated into three primary classifications: government, goods, and services. Government includes teaching, working for the USPS, and political work; “goods” means mining, construction, and manufacturing. Together they make up about a third of the nation’s jobs. The rest come from the service sector, which employs your doctor, gas station attendant, and hostess at TGI Fridays.
NPR’s title for the post, “Every Job in America, In 1 Graph,” is a little misleading. The data comes from the U.S. Department of Labor’s non-farm payroll report, which also includes monthly employment figures. As you might guess from the report’s name, the breakdown omits farm workers, as well as non-profit employees, private household employees such as nannies, military personnel, and some self-employed workers. All told, the data actually accounts for 80% to 85% of workers who contribute to the U.S. GDP.
Quoctorung Bui, the graph’s designer, made a smart choice in using a treemap to explore the data. The first inclination when you have parts of a whole is to reach for a pie chart. But a pie chart doesn't work when the parts of a whole live in their own little nested hierarchies. By stratifying the data, readers get the big picture right away (government, goods, services) but still have the option to drill down into each section’s constituent blocks.