This is the fifth year I have looked into how the media treats these two topics:
- The use of “Christmas shopping season” vs. “holiday shopping season” (note how the AP photo at right uses “holiday” and not “shopping,” even though there is a C-C-, Chr-Chr-Christmas tree in the picture).
- 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. The results of this year's first two sets of searches are here (NewsBusters; BizzyBlog) and here (NewsBusters; BizzyBlog).
A table showing the results from this year, plus key comparisons to prior years, follows:
Looking at this year by itself, the proportion of references to the "Christmas shopping season" increased steadily from just before Thanksgiving to just before Christmas, but were a woeful 9.1% of all combined results. Google News search references to Christmas in stories about layoffs were proportionally four times more frequent than they were in stories about shopping (36.9% vs. 9.1%).
Comparing to prior years, while the "Christmas shopping season" percentage of all "shopping season" searches held steady from 2005 to 2007, it has dropped from 12.2% to this year's 9.1%. That's a 25% drop in just the past two years. If that 1.5-point drop average yearly drop continues, we will find no references to the "Christmas shopping season" in about a half-dozen years.
The results relating to "layoffs" are doubly relevant:
- First, this year's percentage of references to Christmas in layoff stories returned to its 2007 level.
- More important, the absolute number of layoff references this year was down 88% from a year ago. Even after considering that Google News (and probably the economy itself) have pruned the number of news results by about half, the number of references to layoffs dropped by roughly 75%. "Somehow" this is the case even though the unemployment rate is several percentage points higher than it was a year ago. The number of layoffs occurring certainly hasn't dropped by that much.
Sadly, this year's search results show a continuing trend towards having the word "Christmas" become disassociated from stories about the gift-giving season, while keeping it relatively visible in dispatches about job losses.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.