A Babel of Web-Searches: Googling Unemployment During the Pandemic

29 Pages Posted: 16 Jun 2020 Last revised: 17 Sep 2020

See all articles by Giulio Caperna

Giulio Caperna

European Commission, Joint Research Centre (JRC)

Marco Colagrossi

European Commission, Joint Research Centre (JRC)

Andrea Geraci

European Commission, Joint Research Centre (JRC)

Gianluca Mazzarella

European Commission, Joint Research Centre (JRC)

Date Written: June 15, 2020

Abstract

Researchers are increasingly exploiting web-searches to study phenomena for which timely and high-frequency data are not readily available. We propose a data-driven procedure which, exploiting machine learning techniques, solves the issue of identifying the list of queries linked to the phenomenon of interest, even in a cross-country setting. Queries are then aggregated in an indicator which can be used for causal inference. We apply this procedure to construct a search-based unemployment index and study the effect of lock-downs during the covid-19 pandemic. In a Difference-in-Differences analysis, we show that the indicator rose significantly and persistently in the aftermath of lock-downs.

Keywords: Unemployment, nowcast, random forest, COVID-19, Google Trends, Difference-in-Differences

JEL Classification: E24, C21, C53

Suggested Citation

Caperna, Giulio and Colagrossi, Marco and Geraci, Andrea and Mazzarella, Gianluca, A Babel of Web-Searches: Googling Unemployment During the Pandemic (June 15, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3627754 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3627754

Giulio Caperna

European Commission, Joint Research Centre (JRC) ( email )

Via Enrico Fermi 2749, Ispra, VA
Ispra (VA), 21027
Italy

Marco Colagrossi (Contact Author)

European Commission, Joint Research Centre (JRC) ( email )

Via Enrico Fermi 2749, Ispra, VA
Ispra (VA), 21027
Italy

Andrea Geraci

European Commission, Joint Research Centre (JRC) ( email )

Gianluca Mazzarella

European Commission, Joint Research Centre (JRC) ( email )

Via Enrico Fermi 2749, Ispra, VA
Ispra, VA 21027
Italy

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