Seasonality in Santa Barbara

by Brian Thomas and Noah Newman | Oct 6, 2015

When looking at the EDD’s employment data, it is important to keep in mind that county and sub-county data are not seasonally adjusted. This is especially important in Santa Barbara County, where there is higher than average employment in highly seasonal sectors— like agriculture, government, leisure and hospitality, and retail.


To provide a rough description of the seasonality in Santa Barbara, we calculate the month to month percent change in not-seasonally adjusted employment since 1990 and then average all of these values by month.  The month with the largest average change in employment has been April, with employment increasing on average by 3.0% every April.  March and May employment changes are also positive on average, with typical increases of 1.7% and 1.6%, respectively.  The months with large seasonal declines are January, July, and December.  Overall, the typical year in Santa Barbara has a strong rise in employment from February through to June before a drop off in July. Then, in October and November employment typically increases before steep declines in December and January.  The timing of these increases and decreases may not make sense immediately, but after looking more closely at the seasonal sectors in Santa Barbara, it becomes apparent why the aggregate seasonality looks the way it does.


The sector responsible for most of the aggregate seasonality in Santa Barbara is farming.  As stated earlier, Santa Barbara County has a larger share of employment in farming than is typical.  Santa Barbara County has 10.1% of employment in the farm sector compared to 2.5% for California.  Farm has dramatic seasonal swings, ranging from 35.7% in April to 17.6% decreases in December.  Every month except for February and June has more than a 3% average change.


Government is another sector responsible for the significant seasonality in Santa Barbara County employment data.   Every July, there is an average decrease of about 7.1% of Government sector employment. This sudden decline occurs because of public school teachers, most of whom are employed from September through June.  When these school teachers return to work for the new school year, they show up as an increase in Government employment for October, which averages about 6.2%.  Since Government is the largest sector in Santa Barbara County, these seasonal swings which are small relative to the 35.7% swings seen in Agriculture still have a large effect on the aggregate county numbers.


Retail trade and leisure and hospitality are the two other sectors in Santa Barbara that have large seasonal components.  Retail trade employment ramps up each year during the holiday season, with a typical increase of 3.1% each November and a typical increase of 2.0% each December.  Then, as the holiday season ends, retail trade employment sharply declines by an average of 5.4% each January.  In the aggregate numbers, these relatively small seasonal increases are overwhelmed by the 4.6% and 17.7% farm sector declines in these respective months.  Hence, Santa Barbara County does not have a seasonal increase in November and December in aggregate as is typical in most of the country where the agriculture industry is relatively smaller.




This month, when the EDD reports its new employment data on October 16th, expect to see a slight decline in the September data.  The EDD’s not seasonally adjusted data will not account for the typical 0.5% employment decline that happens every September.  To correctly interpret the current trends in employment, visit the EFP website to see our seasonally adjusted data.  Every September, farm employment declines by 5.5% and leisure and hospitality employment declines 1%, on average.  If these sectors perform better than is typical, this would be good news for the local economy and our seasonal adjustments will provide a clearer picture of the current trend.