What unemployed people Google and what that tells us

I’m not sure this is a wonderful indictment of human society but if the number of searches for pornography goes up, it can mean that the searchers are back in employment. Out of it, they were spending their time searching for jobs. Once they’ve got one, they’re searching for, well, anyway, indeed. (Have you hired someone recently? Don’t ask them.)

Google found that rising unemployment was not only linked to phrases such as “companies that are hiring.” It was also closely correlated to searches for new technology (“free apps”), entertainment (“guitar scales beginner”) and adult content (“jailbait teen”). The company said its data can improve the accuracy of standard estimates of economic data in a current month as much as 10 percent.

At the University of Michigan, [University of Michigan’s Matthew] Shapiro and his colleagues scoured more than 19 billion tweets over two years for references to unemployment, hunting for phrases such as “axed,” “pink slip” and “downsized.” They indexed the findings and compared them to the government’s weekly tally of people applying for unemployment benefits for the first time.

Their results are remarkably similar — and where they do diverge, the Twitter index may be more reliable. Computer malfunctions and the government shutdown last year distorted the official numbers, while the trends in Shapiro’s index held firm.

The Weird Google Searches of the Unemployed and What They Say about the Economy – Washington Post (30 May 2014)

Read more of what this analysis can find and remember that BBC newsrooms now regularly have rolling displays of what people are searching for. I’ve always assumed that was an edited list, I never saw anything untoward. But maybe the only people who read BBC News Online are unemployed.

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