A couple of weeks ago I took a look at the question of when do Americans care about the homeless? Turns out there's a remarkably predictable pattern to it, and we're currently in the midst of the annual burst in concern. I used a fun little tool called Google Insights to learn this.
Today, a look at a completely different pattern. How has our interest in unemployment changed over time? Like my question about the homeless, the answer tells us a lot about Americans and our economy. Check out this graph:
This chart tells us two very important things. First, as the impact of the 2007 financial crisis began to be felt, there was a sudden surge in people who wanted to learn more about unemployment, and that surge has not yet declined. The US unemployment rate shot up from 5.2 percent in May 2008 to 8.9 percent by February 2009; the Google search surge actually preceeded that slightly. Second, the terms people search for on Google is a pretty good indicator of what's going on in the real world.
What were the top five unemployment-related searches? You won't be surprised:
- Unemployment benefits
- Unemployment office
- Unemployment rate
- NYS unemployment
- Unemployment extension
That last one is interesting in light of yesterday's news that House Republicans have blocked another unemployment extension. Based on the comments on this blog, I can tell you anecdotally that Americans have been deeply interested in every unemployment extension that has or has not been passed by Congress during the downturn. Google Insights data gives the statistical evidence to support it.