One way to get a sense of the economic trends during the COVID-19 crisis is to track Google search trends. If more people are losing their jobs and business are struggling to stay open, one could expect to see a spike in certain Google search terms (e.g. unemployment, PPP, etc.). To monitor economic sentiment in real time, we’ve compiled several search terms that can help gauge what’s happening across the US. Each of these search terms includes a Google Trends chart so you can get a sense of search interest over time.
Chart Description: The charts below present search trends over the past 90 days. The y-axis ranges between 0 and 100 and represents search interest for the time frame of the chart. A reading of 100 represents peak popularity. All charts are updated daily. This post will be updated as conditions (and searches) evolve. Tip: refresh your browser to make sure you are getting the latest data. To be notified of updates to our Economic Trends charts, click the bell on the bottom right to receive free Dogs of the Dow Notifications.
Stimulus Check: As more people are receiving their stimulus check, the interest in this term has been dropping. This could be an indication that despite a slow start, stimulus checks are being delivered.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance: Also known as PUA, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance established by the CARE Act, is available for people typically not eligible for regular unemployment (e.g. independent contractors, gig workers, etc.). The upward trend and most recent uptick may indicate that self-employed individual have been heavily affected by the economic impact of the COVID-19 and that the small business assistance intended to be provided by the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is not curbing the effect of COVID-19 on this part of the workforce.
Unemployment Benefits: While interest in unemployment benefits is still fairly high, it is half of it’s peak seen at the end of March suggesting that people are able to better access unemployment benefits and/or that the rate of unemployment growth could be decreasing.
Unemployment: Google searchers have maintained a high level of interest in unemployment — confirming that an increasing number of people are losing their jobs as more businesses struggle to stay open.
PPP: PPP stands for Paycheck Protection Program. Interest in this program by small businesses that have had difficulties accessing funds under this program remains high.
Forbearance: This search phrase jumped up after the enactment of the CARE Act which expanded forbearance options for homeowners unable to pay their mortgage due to COVID-19. It is still at an elevated level suggesting that families are looking at this option to make ends meet.
Food Bank: The increased interest in food banks demonstrates how families are struggling to address basic needs.
Meat Shortage: Meat processing plants have had to shut down. The increased interest in this phrase compared to the first few weeks of the pandemic suggests that people are finding it increasingly difficult to find meat at their grocery stores.
Online Shopping: Online shopping is becoming the new normal — it may continue even after the crisis concludes.
Zoom: Whether we are working from home, learning online, or attending virtual parties, Zoom is increasingly facilitating our work and social life. As you can see below, the increase in interest in Zoom is in sharp contrast with the decrease of searches of more typical means used to gather professionally (e.g. convention center, airport)
Convention Center: This is clearly not the time for conventions. Though an increase in this search term will likely suggest that the economy is or is at least attempting to return to some sense of normalcy.
Airport: Air travel is difficult during a pandemic — even if the center seat is removed (air circulates in a tube).
Cinema: movie theaters are closed so no surprise here to see a downward trend. It will be interesting to see if this search term picks up again once theaters open up or if people will prefer to stick with Netflix or other types of home cinema experience.