China’s stock market crash has left the global financial system teetering on the verge of a meltdown, and it has the folks on Main Street worried.
According to Google Trends, Americans are searching more for “economic collapse” now than at any point since the last crash. U.S. search traffic for the term hit a record high in August, a remarkable feat considering we’re only three-quarters of the way through the month. (Source: Google Trends: Economic Collapse, last accessed August 26, 2015.)
Google doesn’t release absolute search volume for the term. However, we do know queries increased significantly in July, right around the same time stock markets in China began plunging.
Source: Google Trends
Google Trends is fascinating because it brings an honest, on-the-ground overview of the U.S. economy. And the numbers are clear: people are scared. There has been no real recovery for average Joe outside of Washington and New York City.
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“Economic collapse” isn’t the only trending search term, either. The number of searches for related phrases such as “stock market crash” and “China collapse” is also hitting multi-year highs. Search terms that typically peak during a recession (i.e. “save money,” “part-time jobs,” and “cheap place to live”) also remain stubbornly elevated.
The U.S. economy may be on the mend by traditional metrics, but the actual foundations of this expansion are shaky. Consumers are searching for ways to stretch every nickel. The housing market is stuck in limbo. And for all the Obama Administration’s bragging, the labor market is still soft.
If Janet Yellen were a data scientist, she would certainly vote for keeping interest rates where they are come September.