Latest Restaurant Jobs Data Proves Nothing Except the Fact That We Shouldn’t Believe Mark Perry

The Perry Slump has almost totally disappeared.

The Perry Slump has almost totally disappeared.

A couple months ago at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, economist Mark Perry wrote that according to the St. Louis Fed, Seattle’s minimum wage was turning out to be a huge failure. “The loss of 1,000 restaurant jobs in May following the minimum wage increase in April was the largest one month job decline since a 1,300 drop in January 2009, again during the Great Recession,” Perry wrote.

Problem is, Perry’s allegation wasn’t true. The dip proved absolutely nothing about our minimum wage. We’ve talked at length about how the numbers were based on a much larger geographic area than just Seattle, which makes the data meaningless. Seattle’s increased minimum wage would not be responsible for job losses in Tacoma, for example.

And then the next time the St. Louis Fed’s restaurant employment numbers were published, they indicated the largest month-over-month gain that the region has ever seen. This should be obvious, but I’ll say it again for people who confuse correlation with causation: this does not mean that every question relating to the increased minimum wage has been settled. That month-over-month gain relates to a very large geographic area, and so it’s impossible to attribute the gain to Seattle’s minimum wage.

So let’s bear all that in mind when we look at the very latest set of numbers from the St Louis Fed, which fall juuuuuuuuust a little short of the all-time seasonally adjusted gain. Does this mean the $15 minimum wage is settled? Again, just the same as I said in the above paragraph, no it doesn’t. It’s going to take a long time before we can quantify the effects of the increased minimum wage.

So why am I even bothering to comment on this? Do these numbers prove anything at all? Yes. They do prove one thing conclusively: Mark Perry shouldn’t be allowed to predict the future based on a single data point. The fact that Perry’s report got as much play as it did on conservative media is a disgrace.

Paul Constant

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