With Americans already wary and uncertain about the Obama economy, two separate reports are now stating that the U.S. jobs report, a key measure of how well the economy is doing, has gotten increasingly less accurate in the past 20 years, CBS News reported. The solution, however, remains in the confines of Twitter.
The first report, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, found that the unemployment number released by the government suffers from lack of responses.
"This problem dates back to a 1994 redesign of the survey when it went from paper-based to computer-based, although neither the researchers nor anyone else has been able to offer a reason for why the redesign has affected the numbers," according to CBS.
In addition, unemployed workers, who are surveyed multiple times, are known to only respond the first time, and eventually ignore it later on, researchers found.
"It is possible that unemployed respondents who have already been interviewed are more likely to change their responses to the labor force question, for example, if they want to minimize the length of the interview (now that they know the interview questions) or because they don't want to admit that they are still unemployed."
This ends up not only weighting the later responses inaccurately and skewing the unemployment rate downward, but also increasing the number of people who once would have been designated as officially unemployed and are instead labeled as out of the labor force, which means they are neither working nor looking for work.
However, Twitter might offer a better way to measure changes in the unemployment rate in Twitter, researchers at the University of Michigan said.
Professor Matthew Shapiro and other researchers at the university searched for words and phrases commonly used to talk about jobs and unemployment, like "lost work."
"'Lost work' was one of the first phrases we chose," Shapiro said in a statement, "but it didn't take long to figure out that it usually referred to a computer hard disk crashing. When we looked at the results, we saw that the word 'computer' showed up often." With his collaborators, Margaret Levenstein of the Survey Research Center and computer scientists Michael Cafarella and Dolan Antenucci, he was able to further test the results to make sure the terms were about unemployment.
Although results from the research have not been published yet, Schapiro said the study had held up well so far. During Hurricane Sandy and the 2013 government shutdown, big fluctuations were observed by the group's social media index, he said, adding that the index provided more accurate numbers than the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The BLS will publish its next unemployment report on Sept. 5th, CBS News reported.