Using Social Media to Measure Labor Market Flows

December 06, 2016 by Homero Gil de Zúñiga

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Social media enable promising new approaches to measuring economic activity and analyzing economic behavior at high frequency and in real time using information independent from standard survey and administrative sources. This paper uses data from Twitter to create indexes of job loss, job search, and job posting. Signals are derived by counting job-related phrases in Tweets such as "lost my job." The social media indexes are constructed from the principal components of these signals. The University of Michigan Social Media Job Loss Index tracks initial claims for unemployment insurance at medium and high frequencies and predicts 15 to 20 percent of the variance of the prediction error of the consensus forecast for initial claims. The social media indexes provide real-time indicators of events such as Hurricane Sandy and the 2013 government shutdown. Comparing the job loss index with the search and posting indexes indicates that the Beveridge Curve has been shifting inward since 2011.