U.S. Labor Markets: A Network Approach

I have been busy preforming a network analysis to identify labor markets.  I have previously done this with Florida and thought it would be interesting to try this with the whole United States.

Network Analysis

I used census commuting data to build my network then used Gephi to analyze the network graph.  I came up with 71 labor markets.  Here is a visualization of the network:



I translated the communities discovered from the graph into the following map (for those wishing to know more please visit my GitHub repository):



At first blush I think I’m on to something.  I live in Upstate New York and find it interesting to see the division between upstate New York (in purple) with downstate (in green).  It seems to be quite accurate (I lived in NYC and this conforms with my sense where downstate ends and upstate begins). What do you think?


A couple of things to keep in mind with this map.  The first is that this is based on a network so there is that six degrees of separation type thing underlying this map.  Look at the LA are (in an admittedly ugly yellow-brown color).  That region includes:

  • Southern California
  • Arizona
  • Hawaii and
  • Part of Nevada, Utah and New Mexico.

How can Utah be connected with Hawaii?  Well people in southern Utah can be connected with people in Las Vegas, and Las Vegas can be connected with eastern California, and eastern California is connected with western California, which is connected with Hawaii.  You can see it in  the visualization of the graph above (look for chains of nodes).  So some of these far flung empires are due to connections.

The other thing to keep in mind is that the borders are fuzzy not hard.  One of my primary motivations for doing this in the first place was to see if I could tease out the labor market which may or may not be related to a political boundaries.  I like seeing Connecticut and part of New Jersey joined with New York City.  It makes total sense.  However this is not to say there are people in the Connecticut that don’t work in the Boston area.  They do.  Because the boundaries are not hard.

Further Work

Now that I have these markets identified I think it would be interesting to see if I could tease out some specializations.  Since the area represents a network of people and knowledge spreads through networks it would be interesting to see where the knowledge base is deepest.  The New York City market could be highly specialized in finance for example.  What other specializations occur?

Another thing that would be interesting it to apply a contagion model to unemployment.  Does a decrease in unemployment “infect” neighbors and pull down their level of employment?

I would also like to put together some dot maps showing the working population in these markets.


One thought on “U.S. Labor Markets: A Network Approach

  1. Be careful about the Boundary Specification problem as it relates to social network analysis. SNA is an entire discipline unto itself, and while I am a huge fan of the data analysis and data science movement, one needs to be careful with the new inundation of “plug in” and “push button” style analytics.

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