Facebook: What happens to active users when jobs come back?

There may be an inverse relationship between jobs and Facebook growth. In other words, more jobs may mean less Facebook time.

Are Facebook fortunes tied to whether Americans are working? That question is worth asking given and improved jobs picture and mixed signals about what constitutes an active user on the social network.

Last week, the Labor Department reported that 243,000 Americans were added to the payrolls in January. That sum was about 100,000 more than expected. Facebook's initial public offering documents landed a few days earlier than the jobs report and cited 845 million monthly active users. Do these figures have something to do with each other? Possibly.

Barron’s Randall Forsyth made the case over the weekend:

It can't be a coincidence that its roster of users swelled to over 800 million worldwide during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, as joblessness swelled and with it, free time to spend on Facebook. And in the U.S., jobs are growing in manufacturing and construction, where few people sit in front of PCs, while shrinking in information, finance and government, where most everybody does.

So, as Facebook users go back to work, they will have less time to update their pages and peer at those of others. And fewer office jobs also means less time goofing off at work looking at Facebook (which is broken up by watching videos on You Tube.) And folks who are employed and have a few bucks in their pockets might actually get out and have what used to be called a social life, as opposed to social networking.

Simplistic argument? Perhaps. But I'd argue that Forsyth's quips about Facebook may have some truth in them. We already know that LinkedIn is countercyclical. The professional networking site gains in a downturn as folks look for jobs. Is Facebook any different?

We all know someone who may be unemployed and spending an inordinate amount of time on Facebook when they probably should be on LinkedIn. Free time in many cases means more Facebook.

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