Google announced today the launch of a new public data search, part of the Mountain View, CA, company’s attempts to make government data easily accessible. “Public statistical data, such as unemployment rates or population numbers, doesn't need to be hard to find or, more importantly, hard to understand. Google is making it easier to find and use important public statistical data from governments and other sources,” according to the company’s site. Anyone who’s looked for this kind of data online knows that it can be a time consuming process. If Google's public data makes it easy to find any sort of data, it will definitely make research much


While still limited, Google's public data charts have a great interface. Entering “San Francisco unemployment rate” into Google search yields an interactive graph showing unemployment in the City since 1990. You can compare unemployment rates against other cities, as well as against state and national averages.

Currently available data comes from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau, and Google promises to make tons of public information available in this format.

“The data we're including in this first launch represents just a small fraction of all the interesting public data available on the web,” according to the company’s blog. “There are statistics for prices of cookies, CO2 emissions, asthma frequency, high school graduation rates, bakers' salaries, number of wildfires, and the list goes on.”

Google has been working on this sort of interactive data publishing for two years, since its acquisition of Trendalyzer. Google’s announcement of its public data service during the Wolfram Alpha demo ruffled some feathers, but shows that the search company might actually be concerned about its potential competitor.

By Mark Alvarez