Data Is in Our DNA

Letter from the Chief Economist

July 1, 2022 by Bledi Taska

At Lightcast, our mission is to unlock mobility and opportunity for every employee, student, and community around the world.

I’m Bledi Taska, and I lead a team of economists and data scientists who look every day at our billions of data points in order to find meaningful insights and human stories. We believe those insights and stories can drive change, and every week, I’ll be sharing some of the highlights from our research.

Welcome to the Letter from the Chief Economist.

Launching Lightcast

As you might have already seen, this week Emsi Burning Glass became Lightcast. The name represents our role as a partner that can spotlight changes in the labor market and guide our customers through the complex and dynamic world of work. 

Hear from Lightcast CEO Chris Kibarian about the launch of our new brand.

But before talking about the future of the company, I want to talk about its past.

Burning Glass Technologies was founded by Krishna Gopinath , Ted Crooks , and Anu Pathria in 1999, where they created a new way of parsing resumes in the HR space—you can see one of their original data science papers here. Little known fact: some of their technology was used to detect fraud in financial services, and it was bought and is still used by FICO (of FICO score fame). 

In 2002, Matt Sigelman and Joshua Ticktin acquired the company and applied its resume-parsing abilities to online job postings. From there, they expanded the analytics capabilities of the company and expanded it into a global brand and leader in real-time labor market data. 

Emsi was founded in 2001 by two economics professors at the University of Idaho, Kjell Christophersen and Hank Robison, whose flagship offering was the deep, data-driven analysis that came to be known as our Economic Impact Study. While the company was still based in one room on campus with fabric cubicle walls, Christophersen and Robison hired Andrew Crapuchettes, who soon became VP of Operations and, shortly after, CEO. Under his leadership Emsi was transformed into an international economic data firm.

I want to take this short historical tour for three reasons. The first is to express my immense gratitude to the founders and leaders of these two companies and acknowledge that Lightcast would not be possible without their vision and initiatives throughout the years. Second, I want to emphasize that data science and economics are at the core of this organization. We were using big data way before it was popular in the tech world, and it will continue to be a part of the core DNA in each of our offerings and insights. 

Finally, I also want to thank our clients and partners that have supported us through the years and emphasize that our commitment to you is stronger than ever. As Lightcast, we promise that we’ll continue to do amazing things together that drive your success for years to come.

Economic News

Based on the third and final revision of GDP from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the US economy has contracted more than initially estimated. Real gross domestic product (GDP) decreased at an annual rate of 1.6% in the first quarter of 2022, revised slightly from the 1.5% estimate earlier this year. The BEA attributes this additional decline to a downward revision in personal consumption that was partly offset by an upward revision to private inventory investment.  

On Tuesday, it was announced that the Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index fell for the second consecutive month in June, now down to 98.7. This is the lowest level since February 2021. “Consumers’ grimmer outlook was driven by increasing concerns about inflation, in particular rising gas and food prices,” according to Lynn Franco, Senior Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board.

In the Papers

The paper I want to highlight this week is “Economic Shocks and Skill Acquisition: Evidence from a National Online Learning Platform at the Onset of COVID-19” by Ina Ganguli, Jamal I. Haidar, Asim Ijaz Khwaja, Samuel W. Stemper and Basit Zafar (also available ). In this paper, the authors used data from the largest online learning platform in Saudi Arabia to study how the pandemic impacted skill acquisition decisions. 

They find that the COVID shock led to a large increase in activity on the platform, and that demand shifted towards courses that offered skills valuable during the pandemic, such as telework or computer-related skills. Using administrative employment data, they also found that these investments in skills in early 2020 helped users maintain employment over the course of the pandemic.

These are important findings because they show that if people have the option of reskilling during an economic shock, they will choose to invest in those new skills, which can have a significant impact on their employment and income. 

However, those opportunities need to be democratized in order to reach a broader segment of the world population. A good example comes from Singapore: initiatives like SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG)  and Workforce Singapore (WSG) take a holistic view of reskilling and upskilling citizens’ opportunities. If the paper using data from Saudi Arabia shows that people will invest in their own skills education given the chance, then the next step is to make sure they have it.

Until next week,

Bledi Taska

Chief Economist, Lightcast

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