A couple weeks ago, Linkedin CEO Jeff Weiner offered an interesting viewpoint on some new ways of solving the current U.S. unemployment situation. Weiner argues that the current dislocation in the job market is not merely an unfortunate byproduct of the housing and financial crises, but that the rapid pace of change in our economy is resulting in difficulty matching job-seekers to the right opportunities. He points to the potential of an “economic graph” – analogous to the social graph or interest graph – to help efficiently allocate our economic resources (i.e. human capital) to opportunities.
One can certainly envision the potential for such a valuable market mechanism, but until we get to that point I would argue that Weiner’s own company might already be helping to reduce that void. Weiner’s article reminded me of an analysis I conducted on Linkedin usage at the height of the unemployment situation in 2009, in which I investigated how this emerging Internet utility might be playing a role in people’s search for new employment. At the time it was clear that Linkedin was used much more readily by those searching for jobs, indicating its importance as a networking tool.
An updated version of the analysis today shows this behavior continuing to hold true. In fact, 23.6% of Linkedin visitors also visited Job Search sites in July, compared to just 11.2% of the total U.S. Internet audience. Heavy Job Searchers accounted for 9.8% of Linkedin visitors, compared to 5.6% of the total Internet audience. While the correlation between these two behaviors does not necessarily imply causation, it does suggest that those who are actively pursuing new job opportunities online and significantly more likely to use Linkedin as a resource.
In addition, we can see that not only are job searchers more likely to visit Linkedin, but they also use the site for considerably longer periods of time. The Heavy Job Searcher, in fact, spent an average of 30.3 minutes on Linkedin.com in July, nearly double that of the average visitor to Linkedin (16.1 minutes per visitor). Moderate (25.7 minutes per visitor) and Light (20.9 minutes per visitor) Job Searchers also visited Linkedin for a significantly longer amount of time over the course of the month.
Social media enables us to reach and influence our friends and colleagues and leverage their respective social graphs to make useful connections with the very people who might place us into the right jobs. Because it is often unfairly pigeon-holed as a purely leisure activity, or even more derisively labeled a “time-waster,” it can be easy to overlook the cases where social media has truly revolutionized the way we leverage real-life networks for meaningful interactions. And for those currently searching for jobs, those interactions can mean the difference between being employed or unemployed. Linkedin, along with other career services sites, just might make the process of searching for jobs more efficient, representing perhaps the first phase in the formulation of a true economic graph. Knowing how many industries are currently being disrupted by the emergence of digital technologies, it is nice to know that the Internet may also represent part of the solution.