COVID-19

Here’s what the crescendo of unemployment sounds like

Kai Ryssdal and Alli Fam Jun 24, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace
Share Now on:
HTML EMBED:
COPY
Keystone/Getty Images
COVID-19

Here’s what the crescendo of unemployment sounds like

Kai Ryssdal and Alli Fam Jun 24, 2020
Keystone/Getty Images
Share Now on:
HTML EMBED:
COPY

One of the early markers of the COVID-19 pandemic-induced recession was the response of the stock market. From mid-February to mid-March, the Dow Jones Industrial Average zigzagged downward from a record high on Feb. 12 to historic lows. Back in March, “Marketplace” host Kai Ryssdal spoke with Jordan Wirfs-Brock, a doctoral candidate in information science at the University of Colorado Boulder, about her “sonification” of the data.

“Sonification is any technique for taking sounds and using them to convey data and information,” she told Ryssdal then. That could be “anything from an alarm to an algorithmically composed piece of music.”

Wirfs-Brock has created a new sonification using weekly unemployment data from the U.S. Department of Labor from February to June. She incorporated two metrics into her sonification: new unemployment claims and weekly unemployment claims. She also sonified weekly unemployment data from the peak of the Great Recession, January 2009 to August 2009.

Wirfs-Brock spoke with Ryssdal about her new sonifications, explaining how listeners can approach the sonified data and what they can learn from listening.

Click the audio player above to hear the full interview.

Sonification of unemployment data from February 2020 to June 2020.
Sonification of unemployment data during the peak of the Great Recession, from January 2009 to August 2009

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Will the federal government extend the extra COVID-19 unemployment benefits?

It’s still unclear. Congress and President Donald Trump are deciding whether to extend the extra $600 a week in unemployment benefits workers are getting because of the pandemic. Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia believes the program should not be extended, and White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said the additional money is disincentivizing some workers from returning to their jobs. Democrats want to keep providing the money until January.

As states lift restrictions, are people going back to stores and restaurants?

States have relaxed their restrictions, and many of us have relaxed, too. Some people have started to make exceptions for visiting restaurants, if only for outdoor dining. Some are only going to places they trust are being extra cautious. But no one we’ve talked to has really gone back to normal. People just aren’t quite there yet.

Will surges in COVID-19 cases mean a return to lockdowns?

In many areas where businesses are reopening, cases of COVID-19 are trending upwards, causing some to ask if the lockdowns were lifted too soon, and if residents and businesses might have to go through it all again. So, how likely is another lockdown, of some sort? The answer depends on who you ask. Many local officials are now bullish about keeping businesses open to salvage their economies. Health experts, though, are concerned.

You can find answers to more questions here.

As a nonprofit news organization, our future depends on listeners like you who believe in the power of public service journalism.

Your investment in Marketplace helps us remain paywall-free and ensures everyone has access to trustworthy, unbiased news and information, regardless of their ability to pay.

Donate today — in any amount — to become a Marketplace Investor. Now more than ever, your commitment makes a difference.