Change in Times
An exploration of Seattle's economic landscape

Seattle is widely acknowledged as one of the fastest growing cities in the country. Recently, its reputation has changed from that of a rainy city with great coffee to one of the top economic and technological hubs in the United States. While it is clear that the economy has dramatically changed over time, the answer to exactly how the economy has changed is a little more nuanced. This set of visualizations attempts to answer the question of how Seattle's economic landscape has changed from 2010 to 2016 by examining business licenses and the housing market.

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Active Businesses as of 2016
Median Home Value as of March 2017

Businesses are considered to be a driving force behind Seattle's rapid growth. However, perhaps surprisingly, the total number of businesses has not changed dramatically within the decade, with the exception of 2015. Note that this sudden increase in 2015 can perhaps be partially attributed to inconsistencies in how the city of Seattle tracks business licenses, because many sectors report more pre-existing businesses in the year of 2015 then existed in 2014.

To interact with the visualization, try selecting different sectors by clicking the stream graph or the navigation bar. The sectors are ordered on the left by number of businesses (highest at top). Click a bar to see a visualization of businesses that are left behind from year to year, and businesses that are added. Click anywhere else to return to the original view.

What about tech? Despite Seattle's reputation as a burgeoning hub of technology, the number and proportion of technology related businesses in Seattle has not changed dramatically over the last 6 years. In fact, tech made up 11.6% as of the beginning of 2011, and made up 11.8% of businesses as of the beginning of 2017. However, these raw counts do not tell the full story. As evidenced by Facebook doubling its presence in the Seattle Area, Apple expanding its Seattle offices, or Amazon building a massive new office in Seattle , technology companies are investing more in Seattle and even though the raw number of licenses are not increasing, the amount of money companies are pouring into Seattle certainly is. Hover over the graph to see how the number of tech businesses, and the percentage they make up of the total number of businesses in Seattle has changed over time.

A short look at the taxi industry. Taxi licenses, a subset comprising almost the entirety of the Transportation and Warehousing sector, has risen from 4.1% of total businesses in Seattle at the beginning of 2011 to 12.6% at the start of 2016. This can be at least partially explained by the legalization of ridesharing in 2014, as the definition of the transportation drastically changed with the advent of ridesharing platforms such as Uber and Lyft.

But Seattle is big. And diverse. Looking at aggregate counts and percentages doesn't give a nuanced enough view of how the city is changing. The number of businesses may be increasing steadily over the years, but the increase is not uniformly distributed throughout the city. This map shows the distribution of business by ZIP code. It provides a more informative view of the distribution of Transportation and Warehousing businesses in Seattle. Interestingly, we see that the zip codes on the outskirts of Seattle, notably 98118 and 98133, have a lot of activity in this particular sector.

Mouse over the right side of the screen to pause the animation. Click on the drop-down menu to explore a different business sector, and drag the slider to change the year viewed. Mouse back to the left side of the screen to allow the animation to resume.

Let's take a look at housing. While businesses may be a driving force behind Seattle's growth, the raw counts of business licenses alone do not tell the whole story. What is perhaps more representative of change is the housing landscape. Housing prices reflects the cost of living in an area and thus affects residents more directly than the number of businesses. Below are the median home values for Seattle and three cities that are notorious for expensive housing: New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. It's interesting to note that Seattle had the highest percentage increase in median housing prices from 2010 to 2017.

Supply and demand: days on market. While Seattle housing prices are skyrocketing, housing supply for demand seems to be quickly decreasing. Take a look at the average number of days houses were on the market in Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Francisco in December 2016. The fact that houses in Seattle are being bought very quickly, coupled with rising housing prices, shows that the demand for housing in Seattle is growing to quickly for supply to keep up.

Note: no data for this measure was available for the city of New York.

Bringing it all together. So far, we've been looking at business and housing data independently. However, it's important to consider influences from both businesses and housing in order to get a more complete picture.

On the next page you will find a visualization that combines both elements to allow for a more holistic exploration of Seattle's economic landscape. The map represents the median home value of each zipcode in each year between 2010 to 2017. Click on any zipcode to further explore trends over time in median home values and breakdown of the most popular business sectors. Click on each business sector in the radial chart to see a breakdown of that sector from 2010 to 2017 in that area. The darker the sector is in color, the more popular it is when looking at Seattle as a whole.

What are the most popular types of businesses in each area? How do the types of businesses in an area correspond with the home values there? What does ultimately this mean for residents who live there? These are all important questions to think about as new businesses move into Seattle and as the housing market continues to grow.


Business Data:

The City of Seattle provides a dataset of active business licenses from the years 2010 to 2016. Each entry in this dataset holds the various attributes such as: Business Legal Name Trade Name License Start Date Location NAICS Code NAICS Description What is particularly interesting in this data set is the inclusion of the NAICS Code (standing for 'North American Industry Classification System' Code). These are 2 to 6 digit codes that represent a sectors or subsectors within industry. For example, '48' represents the sector 'Transportation and Warehousing', while '485310' represents 'Taxi Service', and '485320' represents 'Limousine Service'.

Here's Seattle data portal:
And the particular datasets we used, per year: 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016

Housing Data:

Zillow provides their Zillow's Home Value Index, a compilation of the median of Zillow's estimation for the value of homes within a given region.

Here's Zillow's portal:
And the particular data set we used: ZHVI All Homes (by ZIP Code)

Redfin provides information pertaining to a particular market's average 'days on market'.

Here's Redfin's portal:
The particular data-set we used can be found under the 'Days on Market' tab on the Tableau interface of the page.

About Us

Our names are Gunnar Olson, Halden Lin, Lilian Liang, and Shobhit Hathi.

This project was created for the course CSE442: Data Visualization, at the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering within the University of Washington.

Special thanks to our professor: Jeff Heer, and teaching assistants: Kanit "Ham" Wongsuphasawat and Jane Hoffswell