Mar 5, 2010

Hal Varian Uses Google Search Statistics to Predict Economic Trends

From The Wall Street Journal

Studies of Web Searches Offer Preview of Hiring Trends

By Jennifer Merritt

Payroll and unemployment data released Friday offered a snapshot of the labor market's health last month. But some researchers say they can get a read on such trends days or weeks ahead of the official numbers by studying Google searches, tweets and even queries at an online phone directory.

Economists painted a mostly positive picture of the latest government data, which showed the economy shed fewer jobs than expected in February and the jobless rate held steady. For people who look at early-warning indicators, the figures were no surprise. The Web-based data have been telling a similar story for at least a month: The job market is getting better — very slowly....

Hal Varian, who left a teaching post at the University of California, Berkeley, [on leave from the School of Information] to become chief economist at Google Inc., conducted an analysis of searches using a Google tracking function called Insights that pointed to the trend in initial claims for unemployment benefits seven days before the government released them.

The same tool showed more Web searches were conducted over the past two months for "job interview questions" and "what to wear to an interview," phrases that likely mark the beginning of the hiring process. And Google can pinpoint the geographic areas producing the most searches. People typing in Minnesota, for instance, increased searches for job interview questions and answers more than any other state between late October and mid-February.

"I think of it as taking the pulse of the economy," said Mr. Varian, whose team is exploring whether Google wants to get further into forecasting. "We think [the data] definitely have predictive power."...



Last updated:

October 4, 2016