The Economic Impact Of Leap Day

A blog about business and economics.
Feb. 28 2012 1:42 PM

The Economic Impact Of Leap Day

1330454564066

As it's February 29th coming up tomorrow, a few people have asked me whether I think the creation of an extra day provides any kind of boost to the economy. The short answer is "not really."

The longer answer starts with a bit of math. One extra day makes the year 0.27% longer theoretically allowing for 0.27% more economic activity to take place. So it's true that all things considered you might get a smallish boost to aggregate output and income totals. But in terms of things people care about like unemployment only increasing the density of economic activities provides a boost. Taking another full 24 hours to do another 24 hours worth of work doesn't change anything. That said, on shorter time frames it does make a difference. Anyone who's subjected to monthly performance metrics of any kind will do a bit better than he would in a normal February. This is mitigated by the fact that even with Leap Day added, February is still a freakishly short month, so it's not like anyone is going to use their extra day to break sales records.

Advertisement

Now if there were actual traditions based on Leap Day—as depicted last week on 30 Rock where in the fiction Leap Day is a major national holiday—then you would expect to see real impacts. Seasonality is a very real feature of the American economy, and that's only partly about the weather. Big holidays are associated with pricing anomalies of various kinds (turkey on Thanksgiving, for example) that reflect the real consequences. If you had a holiday that occurred just once every four years and that involved a lot of travel, or days off, or consumption of special food or beverages, something would probably happen especially because adjusting the structure of production to such a rare event would be difficult. But in the real world nothing happens on Leap Day except the addition of an extra day, so nothing really changes.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

TODAY IN SLATE

Jurisprudence

Don’t Expect Adrian Peterson to Go to Prison

In much of America, beating your children is perfectly legal. 

Ken Burns on Why Teddy Roosevelt Would Never Get Elected in 2014

Cops Briefly Detain Django Unchained Actress Because They Thought She Was a Prostitute

Minimalist Cocktail Posters Make Mixing Drinks a Cinch

How the Apple Watch Will Annoy Us

A glowing screen attached to someone else’s wrist is shinier than all but the blingiest of jewels.

Books

Rainbow Parties and Sex Bracelets

Where teenage sex rumors come from—and why they’re bad for parents and kids.

Books

You Had to Be There

What we can learn from things that used to be funny.

Legendary Critic Greil Marcus Measures and Maps Rock History Through 10 Unlikely Songs

Catfish Creator Nev Schulman’s Book Is Just Like Him: Self-Deluded and Completely Infectious

Behold
Sept. 12 2014 5:54 PM An Up-Close Look at the U.S.–Mexico Border
  News & Politics
Jurisprudence
Sept. 14 2014 2:37 PM When Abuse Is Not Abuse Don’t expect Adrian Peterson to go to prison. In much of America, beating your kids is perfectly legal. 
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 12 2014 5:54 PM Olive Garden Has Been Committing a Culinary Crime Against Humanity
  Life
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 13 2014 8:38 AM “You’re More Than Just a Number” Goucher College goes transcript-free in admissions.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 12 2014 4:05 PM Life as an NFL Wife: “He's the Star. Keep Him Happy.”
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 12 2014 5:55 PM “Do You Know What Porn Is?” Conversations with Dahlia Lithwick’s 11-year-old son.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 14 2014 7:10 PM Watch Michael Winslow Perform Every Part of “Whole Lotta Love” With Just His Voice
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 12 2014 3:53 PM We Need to Pass Legislation on Artificial Intelligence Early and Often
  Health & Science
New Scientist
Sept. 14 2014 8:38 AM Scientific Misconduct Should Be a Crime It’s as bad as fraud or theft, only potentially more dangerous.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 12 2014 4:36 PM “There’s No Tolerance for That” Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh say they don’t abide domestic abuse. So why do the Seahawks and 49ers have a combined six players accused of violence against women?