Visualizing the U.S. Federal Government Shutdown


Here at Enigma, the current U.S. federal government shutdown is big news - we've been monitoring interruptions in access to public data since it began on October 1, 2013. Additionally, we are handling requests from journalists and civic media hackers for data that is no longer available - contact us at if you need access to a U.S. Government dataset that is currently inaccessible, and we'll try to track it down for you!

With no end in sight to the deadlock, we decided to dig into related data, analyze it, and try to demystify the situation. Here are the results - we've created a dashboard visualization explaining which workers are furloughed, how many wages have gone unpaid, and which government services are currently halted or at risk.

The central visualization deserves a bit of explanation - the size of the entire rectangle represents the total number of U.S. federal government employees. Each smaller rectangle contained within it represents the employees of a particular agency, allowing readers to understand the relative sizes of the different agencies. These agency rectangles are then split into red and shades of blue, representing the proportions of furloughed workers and furlough-exempt (still working) workers, respectively. Click on any agency to see details about its employees:

Gov Shutdown

Earlier this year, when the Office of Management and Budget realized that the possibility of a shutdown was real, they asked all agencies to submit a contingency plan documenting exactly how they would be operated and which workers would be furloughed in case it actually happened. Since these documents were posted on the OMB website before the shutdown began, we were able to scour each one for the relevant details and compile them in this shared Google Spreadsheet. This data was then exported, transformed into JSON, and rendered in the browser using D3.

Additional data, used to estimate delayed salary and unpaid WIC food vouchers, came from the Asbury Park Press federal salaries dataset (22MB .zip) and this archived dataset of estimated WIC program costs. If you're curious about any other implementation details, the code for the whole thing is available on Github.

We're thrilled that this project has already gotten coverage from some online news sources, as well as lots of love from people we respect on Twitter (edit: including U.S. President Barack Obama!):

The Whole Government Shutdown In One Simple, Beautiful Chart - Business Insider

The Government Shutdown, Visualized - The National Memo

Furloughed Federal Employees Could Fill These Places- Vice Motherboard

The Un-Official Government Shutdown Clock - Zero Hedge

Open data champions and entrepreneurs make sense of shutdown numbers - FedScoop