Can changes in phone usage detect real-time unemployment? According to a group of MIT researchers, the answer is yes—and such patterns could provide insights into why it takes so long for some laid-off workers to reenter the workforce.
The researchers analyzed the phone activity of workers recently laid off from a European factory, and found that the “total number of calls made by laid-off individuals dropped by 51 percent compared with working residents, and by 41 percent compared with all phone users,” according to a release from MIT.
If you believe the argument, changing phone patterns could serve as a leading indicator of unemployment within communities. But the results are also troubling on an individual level, something the researchers acknowledged. “People’s social behavior diminishes,” Jameson Toole, one of project researchers, told MIT’s News Office, “and that might be one of the ways layoffs have these negative consequences. It hurts the networks that might help people find the next job.”
Study after study (and a mountain of apocryphal evidence) has indicated that networking is an important aspect of anyone’s career. While hard work and results are invaluable, networking (both online and offline) can help you land the next job, secure an invaluable connection, or simply provide you with more information about your particular industry.
But building networks takes a lot of work. Actively growing a social network online is a slog. In the real world, even the most cheerful extroverts can find themselves exhausted by a rigorous schedule of meet-ups and get-togethers. Despite those challenges, taking the initiative to get out there and make connections is all-important; the connections won’t come to you.
That’s what makes this MIT study so worrisome; in an ideal world, a laid-off worker—no matter what their profession—is making more phone calls, not less.