This is the first instalment in a month-long municipal election series of infographics examining Hamilton's progress over recent years.

Days before he was first elected to the American presidency in 1980, Ronald Reagan posed a question in a televised address that became one of his best-known quips: “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”

In anticipation of October’s municipal election, we at CBC Hamilton are asking much the same thing — has the city improved —  though not simply to score rhetorical points. Each weekday during the month of September, we will be publishing a new infographic taking a look at a different measure of the city's health. Our look at the myriad indicators that shed helpful light on Hamilton's well-being will include economic, social, safety, environmental, financial, health   measures, and more.

The first instalment in the Hamilton: Better or Worse? series is a chart that shows the annual unemployment rate since 2004 for the Hamilton Census Metropolitan Area, which includes the cities of Hamilton and Burlington and the Town of Grimsby. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the impact of the 2008 recession is highly visible.

Unemployment in Hamilton

In the year and a half leading up to October 2008’s stock market crash, Hamilton’s jobless rate zigzagged around the six per cent mark. Unemployment skyrocketed over the following five months and finally peaked at nine per cent in September 2009. Here's another chart — this one with the monthly rate, based on a seasonally adjusted three-month moving average — that looks on the effect of the recession more closely. 

Monthly unemployment in Hamilton

Although the rebound years of 2010 and 2011 saw a steady decrease in unemployment, the jobless rate has since been oscillating between six and seven per cent  — consistently outperforming the provincial average, but still worse than where it was in the months before the recession hit.