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Google has no more problems than initial claims, which presumes an unemployed person is eligible for EI. As another piece of information, especially one that helps track those who have fallen through the cracks other methods, it is to be lauded.

The "jobs" search is basic for anyone looking for work.

Dr Di Matteo, I might be a little late here, but I thought I might add something.

"Would it not be possible for indicators of unemployment or retail activity to be “gamed” by having computer programs written and set loose on the internet that input certain search terms on a massive scale in order to create “trends” that can be exploited for marketing or stock market purposes?"

I find it unlikely that Google would be unable to determine the difference between a legitimate increase in searches for 'jobs' and some manipulated surge in searches. They have an enormous vested interested in preserving the validity of search results and data, as that validity is an integral part of the product they provide to advertisers. Determining what people are 'really' looking for is one of the most important functions, and from all the previous work on flu-trends etc, they obviously have a lot of experience dealing with search inputs.

Were someone to attempt to 'game' a Google-based job indicator, I think Google would be fighting hard to stop them from the get-go. Furthermore, there are already large financial incentives to discovering an effective method of gaming Google in some shape or form, almost all of which would be more concrete (and more immediately profitable) than goosing a leading indicator and going long on stocks.

Very interesting post though, I look forward to seeing how the indicator works in future!


Not late at all! That is a good point re Google's likely response.

Possibly dumb question: I wonder if it would also be possible to use this Google search data to test economic theories. Especially for things we don't have other data on. For example, my hunch is that Google searches for "barter" would be positively correlated with "jobs".


The Google Trends tool doesn't seem to have fine enough data for me to get any useful comparison between jobs and barter. I.e. the scale is too large to show up searches for barter. The tool is fun, but for serious academic work you obviously need the full data set.

Here is "jobs" and "barter". The big peak in October 2011 was the death of Steve Jobs (obviously why it needed to be removed).


Barter alone has a very gentle trend upwards in 2009:


Jobs does as well, but it is crying out for seasonal adjustment:


Can you imagine a future where the BLS pays Google a monthly fee for this data? I can! It's an exciting thought.

Cool! Thanks Ben. I tried to extend the "Barter" series for more years, but I screwed something up, and it said I had reached my quota, or something?

That is strange Nick! Perhaps you have to be logged into a Google account to use it without limits.

Here is the series for as big a range you can get, 2004 to present:


Any idea what that huge spike in July 2012 would be? None of the news stories Google picks up are around that date.

For me, that big spike was washing out the trend slightly, so I made another graph where the series ends in May 2012 (is that cheating?):


I see a small decline from 2004 onwards, reversing around the middle of 2008. That seems to fit the business cycle alright. Another interesting search might be through Google Books, checking the frequency of the word 'barter' in US books published over the last century against the business cycle.

Oh! I think I found the July 2012 spike:


Barter Kings is a US tv show that premiered in June 2012. That's probably what the spike is. Shows just how low volume 'barter' searches are.

This almost feels like Detective work.

This is a dramatic one...

sorry that link didn't work, how about this >here.

O.k., that didn't work either. Just search for fiscal cliff.

That's cool. It really works, thanks for sharing.

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