Patchwork Nation: Some Good Economic News for the Holidays

BY Anna Shoup  December 23, 2009 at 12:34 PM EST

Hardship Index

The map above shows how counties compare in Patchwork Nation’s Hardship Index. Darker shades of red indicate tougher times over the past month, relative to the rest of the country.

Just in time for the year’s end, some good economic news from Patchwork Nation: December’s Economic Hardship Index scores dropped for December in all 12 community types. A dip in home foreclosures helped, along with smaller increases in unemployment in some key communities.

“The last time the hardship scores for our communities looked this good was in the middle of the presidential campaign – July 2008,” writes Patchwork Nation project director Dante Chinni, though he cautions that the foreclosure rate may not peak until 2010.

The score tallies gas prices, unemployment and foreclosure rates by county. See a [county map of the U.S. ](http://www.pbs.org/newshour/patchworknation/#/archive/?category=hardship&map=hardship-index-dec-2009) to create an index of how different communities are faring during this recession. In his breakdown, Chinni found the types still hurting most are [Minority Central ](http://www.pbs.org/newshour/interactive/patchworknation/communities/minority-central/)counties, [Service Worker Centers](http://www.pbs.org/newshour/interactive/patchworknation/communities/service-worker-centers/), and the big-city [Industrial Metropolis ](http://www.pbs.org/newshour/interactive/patchworknation/communities/industrial-metropolis/)counties.

You can find [where you fit in](http://www.pbs.org/newshour/interactive/patchworknation/counties/choose/) to Patchwork Nation and play around with [hardship scores by county](http://www.pbs.org/newshour/patchworknation/#/archive/?category=hardship) as far back as June 2009. [Patchwork Nation](http://www.pbs.org/newshour/patchworknation/) divides U.S. counties into 12 types that represent pieces of the larger U.S. economic and cultural makeup. The project is a collaboration between the PBS NewsHour, the Christian Science Monitor, and local public broadcasting stations.