Informavore: Creating an Employment Forecast That Matters

Austin has for some time heard that we are recession-proof or at least more immune than other U.S. areas. In October, Austin Business Journal reported that the “recession ended… in one out of every five metro areas in the United States, including Austin”. The data was based upon a report from The Adversity Index, Msnbc.com and Moody’s Economy.com, which listed Austin as in recovery.

However, amid another round of job losses in Austin last month, relying on national economic forecasts appears ambiguous at best, especially in assessing its effects more personally. What if you could use that same data to accurately predict your own future job security? Could you possibly even measure the optimum time to jump ship and make a career move.

Data-driven services that make highly personalized predictions already exist. Life insurance actuaries are some of the most famous, tasked with mining big heaps of data in order to predict the length of a human life. What’s more personal than that?

With everyone mining data in order to reach more valid conclusions, why can’t this same idea be applied to our future job outlook, especially in times when informed career decisions are so crucial.

Statistical tools like predictive modeling, a method for visualizing future trends based on historical data, could be applied to Austin’s economic data, creating a customized approach to economic and employment indicators.

Currently, your best source for Austin economic information is the annual Angelou Economics Forecast. Headquartered in Austin, Angelou Economics is an economic development firm focused on the technology industry. However, has analysis of Austin’s local data reached it’s full potential here? With Angelou stating that Austin is tech savvy because of our high percentage of DVR users, I think not.

Angelou Economics is useful for casting a wide economic net around a community and drawing out its future market potential, but when you apply Angelou’s economic forecast to your personal situation, it falls short. In the 2009 Austin forecast, the descriptions of future trends read like monthly horoscopes – vague and impersonal.

The data is already open and available through the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau. With all the talented programmers in Austin, it must be possible to create a tool to give all of us a little more control over a shifting marketplace.

There are, of course, issues with inaccurate predictions and the potential affects if say, you left your job because you thought it was going under, which later turned out to be false. However, from the opposite perspective, how much better off could you be if you were able to predict months in advance that your job would no longer be available? Either way, the issue remains the same – give people more control and insight into their career future.

The web today is all about becoming personalized, and data should likewise apply to being more personally relevant rather than just mapping out broader trends, which hold no meaning for the individual. There is a personal economics we can glean if we only had the right tools and services to do it. If these tools don’t exist, then they should.

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