How Emsi’s New ACS Community Indicators Will Save You Time

February 14, 2019 by Emsi Burning Glass

How Emsi’s New ACS Community Indicators Will Save You Time

We are excited to announce that ACS data is now available in Emsi Developer. The following blog is from the perspective of Hector Acosta, former research analyst of Worksystems and now senior consultant for Emsi. Below are two scenarios on how you would approach getting data through American FactFinder vs. Emsi.

Researchers’ Dilemma

Your executive director has a meeting with the mayor in 15 minutes. They need to know the following NOW:

  • Household income

  • % of population in poverty

  • Numbers and % of target populations:

    • Veterans

    • Foreign born

    • Single mothers

    • Youth in poverty

    • Disabled

Thirty seconds later they send a follow-up email that they need to also know how these rank against two other communities.

The Typical Scenario

Panic for 90 seconds. Take a deep breath. Remember that this can all be found in the ACS FactFinder tool. Panic at how daunting that tool is to navigate. Start asking yourself “OK, poverty. Was that in Table DP02 or DP04? I think I saved a Word file with all those tables somewhere.” Frantically search your chaotically organized folders. No luck.

Go to the ACS search site. Go through eight clicks to find all MSAs in the nation. Now you need to select the appropriate geographies.

Scroll through the A’s to find Atlanta MSA. Click on it to highlight it blue. Scroll down to B to find Baltimore. Don’t forget to hold down Ctrl to multi-select! Scroll all the way down to the I’s to select Indianapolis.

You forgot to hold down Ctrl. Look at the clock. Ten minutes left. Start the process over again until you select all the right geographies.

This screen pops up, because you accidentally selected old MSAs that no longer exist in recent survey years. Ask yourself why FactFinder keeps those old MSA geographies. Finally get the correct MSAs. Six minutes left.

Search “poverty” and click on the first table. Nailed it, research superstar!

Click download so you can analyze the data in Excel. This pops up:


“Merge the annotations and data into a single file? Include descriptive data element names? “ Ask yourself for the 100th time what those even mean, and click OK because you always have.

Wait for download bar to fill.

Blue bar is filled! Click download…to download the data you already clicked to download.

Wait for zip file to download. Unpack zip file. Open Excel file. Spend 5 minutes organizing the data so that it looks presentable and can easily show side-by-side comparisons in a table.

Congratulations, you did it! Well, you did 1/12th of the data request in the allotted time. You sheepishly send over the % population living in poverty data and say you will continue gathering the rest. You look at the clock. It’s 3 p.m. You think about having to do that process 11 times over. You grab another cup of coffee—it’s going to be a long afternoon.

If none of this made sense to you, congratulations. You have never been tormented by the cumbersome process of pulling ACS data.

The Emsi Scenario

You sign into Emsi. Click “Region.” Click “Community Indicator Map.” Select to show data by MSA. Export to Excel.


In under one minute, you now have 35 data points, including the exact ones requested, pulled directly from ACS for every MSA in United States. You put together all the relevant data for the requested geographies, and even add a few others because you want to show off, and ship off a formatted table to your boss. This gives them five precious minutes to review the data before entering City Hall.

You text your significant other—you’re starting Valentine’s Day with a happy hour at 4 p.m.