2021 E-Insights Report

Signals on COVID-19 Impact from Google Trends

What is happening to the economy? How bad is it? Are things starting to look any better? Questions like this are commonplace throughout the country during the pandemic crisis as people struggle to survive and adapt. Some of these questions may be answered in part from interesting real-time data on searches that people conduct on Google. Here, scholars used real-time data from Google searches to gauge various aspects related to how COVID-19 affects the economy. In particular, they studied the following categories through Google searches:

  • COVID-19 disease concern
  • Employment related concern
  • Signs of need for food and essential supplies
  • Travel and hospitality industry demand
  • How local commerce is affected
  • How family life is affected

Google Trends is an online tool that analyzes the popularity of search queries on Google across multiple regions. Google Trends is very helpful in tracking the movements in the markets or economy on real-time basis. The Google Trends tool creates a search index for each search unit based on its popularity relative to all other search terms queried in a region. The index value ranges between 0 and 100. The higher the index value for a search query, the higher the popularity for that search query.

Researchers conducted a trend analysis to understand the impact of COVID-19, not only to evaluate the economic health of the comparison MSAs, but also to examine the level of its impact on the health and family life of the individuals in the MSAs of study. The index data was collected for 20 MSAs between January 2020 and October 2020. The index values for the Tampa Bay MSA are for the Tampa-St Petersburg-Clearwater MSA alone and do not include the three other MSAs considered part of the Tampa Bay region in this report.

  1. COVID Concern
    This is the proxy for the level of concern the population of a regions is showing for pandemic.
    “covid” + “covid symptoms” + “coronavirus cases” + “covid testing near me” + “toilet paper”

  2. Employment Concern
    This is the proxy for the impact of COVID-19 on the economy and employment levels.
    “hiring freeze” +”layoffs” + “severance pay” + “unemployment benefits” + “unemployment”

  3. Search for Assistance
    This is the proxy for the impact of COVID-19 on the individuals belonging to low-income strata
    “food stamps” + “free food” + “free meals” + “small business loans” + “soup kitchen near me”

  4. Local Commerce
    This is the proxy for the impact of COVID-19 on the regular commercial activity of a region.
    “concert tickets” + “events near me” + “malls near me” + “movies near me” + “opera tickets”

  5. Online Retail
    This is the proxy for the impact of COVID-19 on the e-commerce activity in a region.
    “Amazon grocery” + “canned food” + “food delivery” + “grocery delivery” + “online grocery”

  6. Family Life
    This the proxy of how family life of individuals is impacted by the pandemic. Researchers looked at domestic abuse, divorce and fun activities.
    1. Domestic abuse: “domestic abuse”
    2. Divorce: “divorce lawyers”
    3. Fun activities: “family games” + “fun games” + “cleaning”