Capturing the immediate vital signs of the economy is hard. Economists have developed a set of economic indicators giving the current condition of the economy and the Federal Reserve Bank has their popular Beige Book. In this time, I’m certain that no one has ever accused economists of providing the information in a clear, interactive medium.
A few folks involved in Chicago’s open government initiatives have created How’s Business Chicago? to let people explore current business conditions. It is not the first website to provide details of the municipal level, but it does have the best UI and approach.
The initial release focuses on four metrics: new business licenses, unemployment, building permits, and housing foreclosures. The data is provided in three ways. First, the data is plotted in interactive diagrams using HighChart.js, with data displayed in hover boxes. Since economic data can be noisy (i.e., moves up and down a lot), trend data is also provided to give a clearer picture of the trend. Lastly, if the plot isn’t clear enough, a simple summary of the trend in a color-coded text box.
This is a great project that can be replicated in other cities. Hopefully more economic indicators will be added to this site. This project is open source so you can find the code on GitHub and the data in Fusion tables.