Yelp Inc. (NYSE: YELP), the company that connects people with great
local businesses, today released the Yelp Economic Average (YEA), a
benchmark of local economic strength in the U.S.
This press release features multimedia. View the full release here:
Yelp Economic Average (Graphic: Business Wire)
“Many of today’s data resources for measuring economic health generally
either focus on giant corporations or move at a glacial pace,” said Carl
Bialik, Yelp’s data science editor. “Yelp has information on millions of
U.S. brick-and-mortar businesses and the interests and needs of the
millions of consumers who use Yelp every day, which researchers
have found makes us well positioned to quickly measure a huge swath
of the economy that is missed by many major indicators.”
The Yelp Economic Average rose by eight tenths of a point in the first
quarter of 2019 after a tough end to 2018. In the last quarter of that
year, the YEA—a measure of the health of important sectors across the
economy, based on Yelp’s unique data set—fell
by 2.2 points. The YEA measures success using two signals: business
survival and consumer interest. The opening of new businesses and an
increase in consumer engagement both boost the YEA.
Local and professional services businesses drove the increase, but two
major sectors bucked the trend by falling in the first quarter. Retail
businesses continue to struggle. And automotive businesses extended
their slump. In most major metros around the country, businesses
associated with the auto industry have experienced a steady decline over
the past two and a half years.
Why Auto is Slumping
One question that emerged from the Yelp Economic Average is whether the
declining health of the auto sector is a side-effect of the growing
popularity in ride-sharing. Far
more people are getting around by Uber and Lyft today, and many of
those rides may replace individual driving trips and even contribute
to a decline in car ownership. That’s one of several challenges
facing local auto businesses around the country. Yelp charted the
fortune of auto businesses in 50 major metros around the nation, looking
at the overall Yelp Economic Average score as well as the performance of
its two constituents: auto repair and gas stations. While the picture
for gas stations is mixed, the major slump in auto repair across the
board is weighing on the automotive sector in every corner of the
The Marie Kondo and Trump Tax Effects
Beyond the auto sector’s slump, the surge in junk removal and hauling
businesses suggests that Marie
Kondo is on to something. The number of Americans hiring
professionals to cart their stuff away is rising enough to significantly
move the needle on junk haulers’ YEA score, up 7.2 points.
Americans also are increasingly turning to lawyers. Whether they
specialize in real estate, divorce and family, or personal injury,
lawyers had a strong start to 2019. Their professional-services peers,
accountants, also had a strong quarter, with the tax overhaul likely
fueling demand months
before the filing deadline.
A rebound in these core business sectors, such as local services,
professional services, and restaurants, may be early signs of an
economic turnaround. A third successive first-quarter rise isn’t a
result of seasonality; Yelp normalized the data so that it is seasonally
The Yelp Economic Average (YEA) is a composite measure of the economy,
reflecting both business health and consumer demand among businesses in
The eight root categories
The 30 business sectors, or categories — the “Yelp 30” — are drawn from
eight umbrella business categories
on Yelp: restaurants, food, nightlife, local services, automotive,
professional services, home services, and shopping.
Root categories’ share of the 30 components
The share of YEA components from each of these eight categories is based
on each one’s share of the economy, as estimated from County
Business Patterns reports.
Choosing the Yelp 30
Each of the Yelp 30 is chosen based on maximizing four criteria,
relative to other candidates within its family of categories, as
measured in the first quarter of 2016:
- Number of businesses on Yelp in the category;
- Consumer interest on Yelp for businesses in the category;
Number of the 50 metro areas — whose economic health Yelp has been
measuring for a year and a half, originally as part of the company’s Local
Economic Outlook — in which the category is present;
Uniform spread across the
four Census Bureau-defined regions of the country.
Choosing baseline categories
Yelp’s data science team then chose baseline categories against which to
compare the fortunes of the Yelp 30. This step helps remove changes due
to seasonality and Yelp’s internal growth; what remains is a reflection
of real economic patterns. The team selected all other root categories
not represented by YEA components as baselines because they provided the
most robust controls against seasonality and activity on Yelp.
Calculating YEA scores
For each of the Yelp 30 in each quarter, its two scores — one for
business population and one for consumer interest — are calculated as
- Count the component’s total for the quarter;
- For consumer interest only: Count the baseline’s total for the quarter;
For consumer interest only: Divide the component’s total by the
baseline total to get the component’s score;
Divide the component’s score for the quarter of interest by the
component’s score in the equivalent quarter in 2016 — comparing, for
instance, the fourth quarter of 2018 to the fourth quarter of 2016, to
adjust for seasonality;
- Multiply by 100 to make 100 a typical score.
Then the two scores are normalized to have the same variance, so that
each contributes equally across components.
To reduce the effect of outliers, the overall score for both consumer
engagement and business count is the median of each component’s score.
YEA is the mean of the overall consumer engagement score and
Yelp calculated equivalent scores at the regional and metro level to
provide a local look at the state of the local economy.
About Yelp Inc.
Yelp Inc. (www.yelp.com)
connects people with great local businesses. With unmatched local
business information, photos and review content, Yelp provides a
platform for consumers to discover, interact and transact with local
businesses of all sizes. Yelp was founded in San Francisco in July 2004.