If you need to visualize U.S. Census data, unemployment statistics or other datasets quick and with no spreadsheets or coding, give the Google Public Data Explorer a try.
The Data Explorer is linked into several official databases, including the census, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Eurostat, the Inter-American Development Bank, World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund. The direct link allows you to use the Data Explorer interface to build interactive and animated charts and easily generate a link or embed code to your website.
The tool is easy to use. Just select a dataset from the left rail or from the bottom of the page. You also can search for datasets directly from the Data Explorer or search the Google Dataset Search tool linked off the home page. As always, be sure to check the source and accuracy of any data you search for before using it.
In this case, I selected the U.S. Census and clicked on the “Population in the U.S.” link to enter the main interface. The left rail lets you select the type of data you want. Select Population at the bottom of the top section. Then uncheck United States below it and select the states you want. Each state has a flyout menu that offers options for cities and counties.
For example, I’ll select Illinois, New York, California, Florida, Texas and Ohio for my states. To the right of the interface, a line chart showing the populations of those states from 1900 to 2019 appears (2020 census data will appear soon).
Sharing is easy. Just click on the gray link button in the upper right corner of the graphic to get a link or iFrame embed code.
There are additional tools at the bottom of the left rail that provide deeper analysis of the data. You can organize it by age group, gender and other demographics, depending on what was collected with the dataset. It’s also fun to click through the population data in the top left of the toolbar (birth rates, death rates, migration rates) to see how the data looks visually.
Besides the line chart, the tool also offers other options, such as a scatterplot chart, bubble map and animated bar chart. The bar chart is particularly interesting as it animates the steady rise of populations in California, Texas and Florida over the past 119 years. Just hit the play button at the bottom of this graphic to see for yourself.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics data is helpful for visualizing the monthly unemployment data. Just repeat the steps above, except click on the BLS dataset instead of the Census. You can narrow down the years you want by using the small slider scale at the bottom of the graphic. Test it out by selecting “unemployment rate” on the left rail, then clicking on Nevada, California, Florida, Texas and Illinois, then drag the slider in the bottom left to January 2020. The line chart will show the impact the pandemic had on employment in those states.
Video: Watch how to build a graphic in the Google Public Data Explorer
Quick tip: Editors loathe the use of very in stories. Want a tool to help you work around the use of the word? Try Lose the Very. It gives you a field to type a word in after “very” and provides synonyms to the term “very —–.” For example, type in “smart” after very to convert the term “very smart” into “bright.” It’s an intuitive tool and even lets you add terms to the database.
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