Monday, March 31, 2014

Paper: Is Twitter actually useful for something?

Using Social Media to Measure Labor Market Flows
Dolan Antenucci, Michael Cafarella, Margaret C. Levenstein, Christopher Ré, Matthew D. Shapiro
NBER Working Paper No. 20010

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.


I saw Maggie Levenstein (who runs Michigan's Census Research Data Center) present the paper a couple of weeks ago. It's a clever idea and likely an exemplar of much that lies in our future.

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