August 13, 2020 by Drew Repp
COVID-19 has propelled data dashboards and visualization to the forefront of conversations. On a daily basis people would visit news outlets and be struck by another astonishing graph of unemployment claims, business closures, or job loss numbers. Zoom conversations often started with “Did you see…?” And when asking this question people weren’t referring to the numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics or their state Labor Department. They were referring to what they saw.
While saying the number of people seated in New York City restaurants fell 100% certainly raises eyebrows, seeing it like this is jaw dropping:
That’s the power of a data dashboard. And it’s what the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce was seeking when putting together Indicators of Progress. The data dashboard was created by eIMPACT and leverages a host of data, including job posting analytics from Emsi. As the city works to recover, the dashboard tracks that progress in an engaging and informative way.
“Day to day, we do a ton of advocacy, working with local governments to make sure we have a good business climate,” says Manhattan Chamber President & CEO, Jessica Walker. And so the engaging and informing nature of the dashboard is key to the advocacy work of the Chamber.
Good business climate means something much different in a COVID and post-COVID environment. Communities need an accurate picture of how their businesses are fairing and where attention is needed.
“We need to know where we are in the reopening. It’s also very important in a place like New York City to make sure we are keeping a sense of urgency in place. So we thought it was really important to make sure there was data to show exactly where we are and what changes need to occur,” says Walker.
To better understand the situation, Indicators of Progress utilizes a unique combination of datasets to help everyone from journalists to elected officials understand how the city is fairing in its recovery. Consumer and business spending, along with employment and hiring make up the two primary categories of data. But that information (which has a significant lag time) is then augmented by sources such as seated diner, foot traffic, and job openings.
This intersection of varying data sources—from air travel passenger volume and home buying activity, to PPP loans and subway ridership— equips decision makers with a greater perspective on the problem and necessary solutions.
“Data is extremely important to be able to show why something is important and why the solutions you’re putting forward are the right ones,” says Walker.
One of the offerings the Chamber prides itself on is making game changing connections for its members. Indicators of Progresses does this for not only its members, but for all of New York’s leaders as they traverse a COVID-19 recovery. Because the data is being viewed by such diverse users (elected officials, businesses, media, etc.), usability is vital. And this is what a data dashboard done right does, it makes much needed information accessible and useful.
“The nice thing about this dashboard is that one, it’s extremely comprehensive. Very easy on our end, because we didn’t have to do any of the heavy lifting. And it’s put together in such a nice way, we’ve been getting a lot of compliments because it’s so easy to understand. So that makes it very impactful,” says Walker.
With a recent partnership in place with Emsi, the dashboard leverages one of the economies most telling indicators: job postings. While much of labor market information tells us what businesses have done, job postings tell us what they intend to do. Indicators of Progress visualizes various job posting trends, one of the most real-time labor market indicators available, to reveal the direction of New York’s recovery.
While the seated diner data showed a small uptick in activity, job postings have yet to resume; remaining flat at near zero for the last 30 days. This likely indicates the industry’s lack of confidence that scaling operations can be sustained. There simply aren’t enough customers to begin hiring again. Such insights are made possible by the coupling and presenting of unique datasets.
Moving forward, the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce is excited about the weekly updates which are built into the dashboard and the possibility of adding more data points. Walker summed up the value add this way: “The dashboard shows that we are innovative and ahead of the curve.”
Data storytelling expert Brent Dykes has said, “Data storytellers can help unlock the value of your data initiatives. In the difficult last mile of analytics, they play an invaluable communication role in helping people to discover and understand key insights, make better decisions and inspire action.” As communities develop and implement recovery plans, making better decisions and inspiring action is vital.
Chambers, economic development, and workforce development organizations need to be great storytellers. One way to do that is through dashboards that can tell the stories behind all the numbers. Doing so places organizations and communities where the Manhattan Chamber now is: ahead of the curve.
Take a look at the full Indicators of Progress dashboard below. Curious about an eIMPACT dashboard powered by Emsi data for your community? Let’s talk!