Google searches indicate economy is recovering. Slowly.

Kim LaCapria

Hal Varian, Google's chief economist, has noticed some significant, promising changes trending since March.

Unemployment searches are down, real estate searches are up, and temporary employment (which often is a pre-indicator for a recovery in the permanent kind) is improving, for starters. Varian, who joined Google seven years ago to help design their now $21 billion yearly ad business, was in Washington last week to entice the government to use Google to "better draw current snapshots of consumer sentiment, corporate health and social interests." Which would be incredibly useful if they're not doing it already- people are notoriously poor at providing accurate information about themselves, whether through intentional means (lying), misunderstanding questions, or optimism, for example. But Google doesn't lie. Statistical data drawn from user search trends and habits are much less likely to reflect prejudice or misinformation provided by those being profiled based on that criteria.

Varian points to the "cash for clunkers" short-sightedness that has drawn much critique. Had the government used data from Google metrics to gauge interest in the program, he says, perhaps they may have known the money would run out as quickly as it did. While Varian's conclusions may not differ all that much from those being drawn by non-Googling economists, the mere fact that the statistical data mined from Google is so rich and nuanced is reason alone that the search engine's data is valuable to show us what is and possibly, what is to be.

In perhaps the most reassuring prediction I've seen so far, Varian believes recovery is coming. He Googled it.

With more stability in the economy, Varian said more help for private companies, such as tax incentives, could help spur an earnest recovery.

"On the other hand, I would hesitate to say we need any more major initiatives at this point," he said. "The die is cast and things seem to be moving in the right direction. Let's stay the course."

"On the other hand, I would hesitate to say we need any more major initiatives at this point," he said. "The die is cast and things seem to be moving in the right direction. Let's stay the course."

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