Searching for Christmas, and the Missing Layoff Stories

This is the sixth year I have looked into how the media treats these two topics: The use of "Christmas shopping season" vs. "holiday shopping season," and the frequency of Christmas and holiday layoff references.

I have done three sets of simple Google News searches each year -- the first in late November, followed by identical searches roughly two and four weeks later.

A graphic containing key results from the past five years is here.

The results of this year's first set of searches, done at roughly 3:00 p.m. this afternoon, largely reinforce the trends noted last year:

XMasShoppingLayoffs112310

The red boxes demonstrate that, although there has been a bit of a recovery this year, the relative frequency of references to the phrase "Christmas shopping season" vs. "holiday shopping season" is still down a little more than half in the past five years. That the establishment press has become congenitally reluctant to use the word "Christmas" when referring to the upcoming weeks of commerce where the vast majority of the American people will buy gifts for each other, their loved ones, and the less fortunate, and then unwrap them on December 25 or possibly on the previous evening, is basically beyond dispute.

The total number of shopping-related results -- down by roughly one-third from last year from 8,703 to 5,854 -- seems to indirectly confirm anecdotal observations I've heard from many and seen for myself that there isn't nearly as much emphasis (yet) on the Christmas shopping season as there has been in previous years. One trend influencing this which has mostly flown under the radar is that stores have been delaying their Christmas season hires until the last possible minute. If the person trying to help you in the coming week seems to have no idea of what they're doing, you'll know why.

The results of the layoff-related searches are more interesting in how they compare in absolute numbers to previous years. Yes, it's important to note that Christmas about five times as likely to be mentioned in a story containing the word "layoffs" (36.4% divided by 7.4% is 4.92). mentioned. But it's the fact the total number of layoff references is so low that is stunning. They're down almost 95% from 2008, which was of course an awful year; but is this year only 5% as bad? I don't think so.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.