How Google searches can predict Ireland’s unemployment rate

Finnish researchers are confident they can give an accurate three-month forecast…

The Research Institute of the Finnish Economy (ETLA) in Helsinki is predicting European unemployment as much as three months in advance through analysis of the over 100 billion Google searches that are carried out ever month.

The group’s work has already attracted interest from statistics agencies and central banks, with ETLA researchers now saying they can predict real-time unemployment rates using a combination of the Google Trends database and Eurostat data.

As evidence, ETLA has shown that its Google Index began to spike in 2011 for Portugal, meaning it could have predicted joblessness in the Iberian nation before the official unemployment rate could.

Speaking at a European Parliament conference, lead researcher Joonas Tukhuri said:

"Online activity is correlated with the real world, and what is even more important is that we can possibly use that correlation to predict the economy.

"There are over 100 billion Google searches every month, and each search is someone expressing an interest in or a demand for something".

ETLA’s EU forecasts are now online for the public’s perusal.

Here’s a look at the European three-month forecasts:

And here are the ETLAnow forecasts compared with the latest official rate:

As for Ireland? The forecasts for March and April are compared to official rates below.

Looking ahead to the summer months and September, it's good news if we’re going with the Finnish, as ETLAnow predicts unemployment to keep falling.

Yesterday, the Central Statistics Office announced that unemployment was at 7.8% for May, its lowest level since October 2008.

All that apparently gleaned about the future of the Irish workforce from the search terms "ciste dífhostaíochta","sochar dífhostaíochta", "cúnamh dífhostaíochta", "árachas breac-dífhostaíochta", "unemployment fund", "unemployment benefit", "earnings-related benefit", "unemployment allowance", "labour market subsidy", "JSA", "job seekers allowance", "unemployment benefits" and "unemployment office".