Web searches can offer a peek at jobs trends

When unemployment numbers came out this month, those who set up Web searches and Twitter feeds looking for mentions of layoffs weren't surprised. This approach can track a range of factors that can be indicative of the national mood, including regional differences and spending plans. "I think of it as taking the pulse of the economy," said Hal Varian, chief economist at Google. "We think [the data] definitely have predictive power."

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