Seattle Redux: Misunderstanding Seasonal Changes

@TBPInvictus right here.

A couple of decade in the past, the town of Seattle undertook to lift its minimal wage, over time, to $15/hour. Large credit score goes to my good friend Nick Hanauer for his efforts that made that occur.

What adopted within the instant aftermath of each the announcement and implementation was nothing lower than an apocalyptic, collective head explosion on the correct concerning the devastating results the rise would have, significantly within the meals providers sector:

Nevertheless, there’s little doubt that the town’s heralded meals scene is operating scared. — Weekly Customary

Eating places are closing at increased than regular charges. Tim Worstall

Based on the Washington Coverage Heart, it’s already having unintended penalties: specifically, forcing eating places to shut.NY Publish

I documented the errors all through. The largest idiocy of these efforts was the easy incontrovertible fact that critics centered on the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Metropolitan Statistical Space (MSA), a area vastly bigger and extra populated than the town of Seattle correct (King County). Main the cost for this little bit of statistical sleight of hand was AEI’s Mark Perry, who by no means let the reality get in the best way of a very good narrative.

Utilizing the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages – a really correct survey that comes with a protracted lag – we are able to drill right down to King County and see, fairly clearly, that the restaurant sector continued hiring apace all through the incremental will increase within the minimal wage.

The minimal naysayers had been collectively and unequivocally WRONG.


That was within the 2010s. The 2020s model of minimal wage fear-mongering is a fair bigger and extra apparent analytical error.

The NY Publish is again at it once more, this time with California’s minimal wage. The story titled “California quick meals eating places have minimize 10,000 jobs because of state’s $20 minimal wage: commerce group.” They depend on an business commerce group that made a big and apparent error:

“California quick meals eating places have slashed practically 10,000 jobs due to the state’s new $20 minimal wage as struggling franchises minimize labor prices and lift costs to outlive, a serious commerce group stated Thursday. […]

“Manzo stated practically 10,000 jobs have been minimize throughout quick meals eating places since Newsom signed California Meeting Invoice 1287 into regulation final yr, including that officers had been residing in a “fantasyland” by pondering that drastic wage will increase will assist staff or companies.”

Manzo stated it, so it have to be true, proper? Effectively, not precisely.

Barry has written extensively about denominator blindness, i.e. throwing out a quantity with none context in any respect. Is 10,000 restaurant jobs rather a lot or a little bit? What’s the dimension of information set into account? Does the state have 15,000 restaurant jobs total or 150,000? Effectively, the quantity is almost 10X that — 1.470 million to be exact:

Shedding 10k jobs on 1.470 million employed is a rounding error of lower than 1 % — 0.68% to be actual.

So as to add insult to analytical damage, it seems even that small change just isn’t true. Since final August 2023, simply previous to Newsom signing the laws, employment within the sector is flat, altering by such a small quantity as to be statistically insignificant (+2k):


Misinformation is ubiquitous right now. It appears a disproportionate quantity of it comes from right-wing economists. Whether or not via innumeracy or purposeful partisan makes an attempt at deceptive the general public, they enchantment to these in an ideological bubble who merely need their priors confirmed. Jonathan Swift reminds buyers of the risks right here: “A Lie Can Journey Midway Across the World Whereas the Reality Is Placing On Its Sneakers.”

That is the world by which we now reside. You need to interact in info hygiene, be very conscious of what sources you depend on, and acknowledge who’re common fonts of junk science, misinformation, and partisan rubbish.


I spent a while investigating the origins of Manzo’s NY Publish declare and located it led to the Hoover Establishment, which apparently riffed off a story that appeared within the WSJ in March. The Journal did the maths as follows:

California had 726,600 individuals working in fast-food and different limited-service eateries in January, down 1.3% from final September, when the state backed a deal for the elevated wages.

So, couple of issues:

The Journal, Hoover, and Publish used a subset of restaurant staff, i.e. SMU06000007072259001 Restricted-Service Eating places and Different Consuming Locations. Truthful sufficient, though it solely captures, as famous, a subset of the complete class, and the opposite, full-service eating places, could have been rising.

It seems to me that the Journal bought that quantity from BLS. Nevertheless, BLS solely affords the collection with out seasonal adjustment; this makes a very significant distinction.

The Federal Reserve Financial Knowledge (FRED) from the St. Louis Fed — one of many web’s biggest financial assets — takes many collection and seasonally adjusts them, which creates a greater mannequin for understanding particular information collection — especiallty in Housing, Retail Gross sales, and Employment

The end result immediately contradicts the WSJ’s narrative:


Why is seasonal adjustment so essential? We don’t freak out as a result of instantly hundreds of thousands of retail jobs disappear each January; nor will we fret over residence gross sales falling off annually from August to December. These financial sectors have a seasonality to them, and adjusting for that offers us a greater sense of the complete image.

To focus on the significance of seasonal changes, beneath is an extended view of the identical collection with out seasonal changes. What’s fascinating is that the collection peaks yearly within the fall and drops precipitously by January; that is the precise timeframe referenced by the WSJ.

Newsom signed the laws in Fall, simply earlier than the weakest interval of employment (NSA). We don’t anticipate governments to time their pronouncements round analyses akin to these, however perhaps they need to.



Wanting on the chart above in desk format (from 2010), it turns into fairly evident that, on a non-seasonal changes foundation, the trough on this collection happens, with precision, each January. (besides through the pandemic):


So the Journal misled its readers — both intentionally or by chance — as a result of discrepancy between the September to Januuary differential between the non-seasonal changes (NSA) and nonseasonal changes (SA) information collection.


A good friend on the St. Louis Fed confirmed the shenanigans: “Utilizing NSA information is likely one of the most typical errors I see in information reporting.   Even after I speak to the general public individuals appear skeptical of the seasonal adjustment course of and why it’s completed.”

If I used to be educating an Econ 101 class, I’d give this pupil an F. {That a}  professor and a  financial establishment made these errors is professionally embarrassing. That the WSJ repeated is journalistic incompetency. That the NY Publish trumpted it’s merely par for the course.

So, the purpose stays: Wall St. Journal, Hoover, NY Publish are typically not the place you wish to be getting your information, assuming you’re a truth-seeker.


Barry provides:

There are two unhealthy gamers right here: The partisans who know they’re abusing the info, and the naive journos being taken benefit of whose editors are too innumerate to grasp even fundamental modeling points like seasonal changes.

Finest practices when utilizing information with a excessive diploma of seasonality is to make use of 12 months-over-12 months foundation (NSA) on your comparability. This removes the seasonality issue. September 2023 when the laws was launched towards September 2022 one-year earlier reveals the impression with out requiring a seasonality adjustment.

So what does it appear like after we examine year-over-year information? Because it seems, each single month for the reason that laws was launched noticed good points within the sector — not losses.

California Internet Change in QSR Employment (12 Month Change)
September 2023 (vs 2022): 5,900
October 2023: 9,100
November 2023: 11,100
December 2023: 9,600
January 2024: 9,900
February 2024: 7,600
March 2024: 4,100
April 2024: 6,600

Knowledge supply is BLS Could 2024; see chart beneath:



The issue with all of this deceptive innumeracy comes from Brandolini’s regulation:

The quantity of power wanted to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude larger than that wanted to supply it…

However that’s our cost, and since as buyers understanding the world as it’s continues to be so essential, we proceed to carry out these workouts debunking bullshit regularly.




Thanks, Joe! Updating Brandon’s Eating places (June 6, 2024)

Brandon’s Eating places (Could 30, 2024)

Seattle Examine’s Stunning Conclusion: Minimal Wage Will increase Advantages Staff (October 31, 2018)

Jobless in Seattle? Not But, Anyway. Half 2 (April 10, 2015)


California quick meals eating places have minimize 10,000 jobs because of state’s $20 minimal wage: commerce group
ByAriel Zilber
NY Publish June 6, 2024

California Eating places Reduce Jobs as Quick-Meals Wages Set to Rise
By Heather Haddon
WSJ, March 25, 2024

California Loses Almost 10,000 Quick-Meals Jobs After $20 Minimal Wage Signed Final Fall
By Lee Ohanian
Hoover, April 24, 2024

California fast-food-minimum-wage regulation is ALREADY smashing small biz and shoppers
By Publish Editorial Board
June 7, 2024


Print Friendly, PDF & EmailPrint Friendly, PDF & Email

Recent Articles

Related Stories

Leave A Reply

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here