Google released another cool feature today which takes advantage of its gold mine – gigantic volume of search data – to track “domestic trends.” Available on Google Finance, the tool contains 23 indexes to cover major sectors of the economy, such as retail, car buying, jobs, and travel.
I downloaded the job search data and created a chart for the index. It is very interesting that several “trends” immediately jump out at you:
- Job search volume started to increase in early 2008, and hiked further in 2009, reflecting the current economic downturn and the massive layoffs it brings.
- Every year there is a dramatic drop in job searches in late December. Christmas is Christmas, everyone has to take a break!
- Thanksgiving time correlates with a similar, albeit smaller dip for the same reason. It may also indicate that businesses are probably trying to figure out their bottom line for the year, and becoming more cautious with their staffing plan during the holiday season.
- Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day Holidays are all clearly reflected in the chart, as more people take vacations resulting in fewer online searches for employment. This is very impressive and I think it partially validates the accuracy of the data.
Google’s own visualization uses the same data, and is plotted using the 7-day moving average.
Privacy advocates often criticize Google for collecting too much information, but I doubt anyone would argue that in this case, big G indeed put the data in good use. And honestly, I think Google so far has treated user information with great care and respect. Hopefully predicting economic trend is just a start, and search data will be analyzed and processed in much more details to benefit everyone.