Around 60 community members and city employees huddled around television screens, enthralled by the colorful moving bars and changing maps.

The data presented on the screens were part of an interactive public data toolbox of more than 50 different metrics called EconomyPanel. The Los Angeles City Controller's office launched the platform Thursday morning at an event at City Hall. The data provide insights about the economy divided by city council district.

"We are coming out of a data desert and entering into this data oasis," said Robert Kleinhenz of Beacon Economics, the company that created the platform.

With the new tool, the public can explore data on commute times, housing vacancy rates, household income, educational attainment, residential permits, unemployment, and other measures from around 2004 to 2014, depending on the data set.

Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin said the information can help the city target its resources to the places that need them most.

"The data shows that we have had significant improvement in jobs and a whole variety of other data points over the course of the past few years, but that hasn't been equally shared among all the districts in Los Angeles. There are some parts of the city that are crying out for businesses, jobs, and more housing," Galperin said.

The data is intended to be useful to nonprofit organizations applying for grants, businesses, government officials, labor, academic researchers, and neighborhood councils to make decisions and appeals for funding.

Leslie Geriscoff, Executive Director of the Jewish Labor Committee Western Region, said she could see how EconomyPanel can be useful to community activists who can save time and money they would have otherwise spent searching for data.

"This information will hopefully be a real boon to activists who know how to bring to their communities what their residents need," Geriscoff said.

While the data on EconomyPanel has been collected for years, it hasn't been publicly accessible or available in a user-friendly, digital format.

"It has been a priority for me to drag the city into the 21st Century, sometimes kicking and screaming, to open up the roof of City Hall for everyone to see. I think transparency has a tremendous amount of value," Galperin said.

The public can explore the data sets on EconomyPanel, download information, create their own "report cards," share data on social media, and use the data to develop their own apps. Galperin said his office plans to add more features and data in the future.

Reach Staff Reporter Rachel Cohrs by email or via Twitter.