Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Unemployment claims and Google trends continue to diverge

One of my topics (and headscratchers) recently has been the disparity between the Google Trends unemployment data and initial unemployment claims data from the government.  While both of them are trending upwards the difference between the two data series grows. 

Here's a few possible reasons why:

  • The Google Trends data changes. A lot.  As I update my data series I have noticed the entire set has changed (all the way back to 2005!) up to 10%  Comparing the older and newer data series gives you the same shape of the graph for year over year purposes but seeing data change that much is perplexing.  I've emailed Google about this but we'll see if I get any response. 
  • The strong seasonality of layoffs (Go look at the government non seasonally adjusted data. It is very 'spikey') could be making the two series non comparable at this time of year. Even though both series are compared on a year over year basis something may still be incorrect.
  • There could just be anxiety about losing ones job right now and those searches are showing up in the Google data.
  • Census workers are getting laid off right now and looking for new jobs but they may not be showing up in the unemployment claims data.
  • The Google data is relative to all other searches which should remove the bias of greater internet usage over time but it may not properly isolate this specific function used more as compared to others. 
Looking at the data you can see both series tend to follow the same direction but the Initial Claims data leads the Google Trends data (the graph is of a 30 day simple moving average of the daily data)  This time the Google data is leading the Initial Claims data (or is just plain wrong)  I could perhaps be asking too much of the Google data as well. Considering the slope of both is upwards I should perhaps call it good . . .

I don't have any bets placed due to this data but I'm still hopeful something can come of this series.  In a few hours we'll see if I'm still banging my head against a wall or onto something.

Source: Federal Reserve, Google

No comments:

Post a Comment