Job Seeker Reactions to the State of the Union

In last month’s State of the Union address, the president said the word “jobs” 39 times — the only word he used more often was “America” (83 times).

We were interested to learn if a speech dominated by employment, wages and the economy affected how people actually searched for jobs. One moment that left us particularly curious was President Obama’s mention of Costco and the push for higher wages. He commended the company for raising wages, calling it “the smart way to boost productivity and reduce turnover.”

This was a reference to The Fair Minimum Wage Act proposal in Congress that calls for a $10.10 minimum wage to be put in place in July 2016, a change that would affect at least 16.7 million workers nationwide. Did praising Costco in that context influence job seeker’s interest in their jobs?

To find out, we looked at search on Indeed for the time period surrounding the speech.

Searches for Costco increased by 50%

While all companies that were mentioned in the speech received an increase in job searches, none had as large or sustained an increase as Costco. These companies included Google which was mentioned for their innovation along with Apple, Microsoft, Sprint and Verizon which were recognized for their efforts in education.

Mentioning Costco in the same breath as wage increases appears to have had a greater impact. Comparing the week before the State of the Union to the week after, the number of searches for “Costco” increased by 50%.

Economists are divided about what a minimum wage increase means for employment, with differing opinions on how it influences job creation. Recent research analyzing 23 years’ worth of data on past minimum wage increases concluded that overall employment in low wage sectors is largely unaffected, but turnover decreases as workers find high wages an incentive to stay in their jobs longer.

It’s no surprise that job seekers are interested in higher paying jobs, but it’s significant that the nod to compensation generated greater interest for Costco than the other brands the president acknowledged.