Friday, July 2, 2010

Is Google Trends providing a sneak peak into the employment situation?

The employment report was released today and the results were weaker than expected.  From Bloomberg the consensus was for +105,000 private sector jobs while the number was actually 83,000.  Here's a little insight on who was not surprised.

Google Trends provides very interesting data regarding search terms over time.  One of the data series reported daily is the unemployment index consisting of search terms such as 'unemployment' and 'unemployment benefits'.   As you can see from this Google chart the growth of the unemployment index peaked in early 2009 and until very recently was consistently declining.

Comparing the year over year percent change in the 30 day smoothed Google Trends unemployment index to the Four Week Initial Claims as reported by the government is very instructive.  While there is noise it is very impressive how similar the trends and turning points are for each data series.

The recent 'unexpected increases' in Initial Claims coincides with the Google data basing and again turning upwards.  If you want to handicap future unemployment and initial claims reports starting with Google Trends will improve your odds. 

Other Google Trends reports are available on a plethora of topics and you'd be amazed at what you'll find.

Additional reading:

Predicting Initial Claims for Unemployment Benefits -- Hyunyoung Choi, Hal Varian

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