The most romantic metro areas, according to data on flexible work

Key takeaways

  • Los Angeles had the biggest spike in demand for flexible work during the Valentine's Day period, making in the nation's most romantic metro area; New York was the least romantic.
  • Demand for flexible work rose among restaurants and caterers but was especially high at venues.
  • Hourly pay also rose at caterers and venues, with a peak around 20% above the monthly average.

Every year, couples make an extra effort to go out and do something romantic on Valentine's Day – or at least on a day close to it. Last year, we saw some striking changes in our labor market for flexible work around February 14. And we're ready to say where the biggest ones were!

Love in La-La Land

Last year Valentine's Day fell on a Monday, so a lot of the festivities happened during the weekend just prior. In each of our major markets, we tracked shifts booked by our business partners in hospitality: restaurants, caterers, and venues. First we looked at the average numbers of shifts booked per day during the period from Friday, February 11 to Monday, February 14. Then we compared these averages with the daily averages for the rest of the month of February.

An increase in shifts booked around Valentine's Day could suggest either higher demand for labor or lower supply of labor from non-flexible sources. Both factors might hint at something romantic in the air: more couples going out, and fewer people available to work in hospitality... because they were going out as well.

So, without further ado, these metropolitan areas had the biggest increases in shifts booked:


Metro areaChange in hospitality shifts bookedLos Angeles+262%Phoenix+68%Atlanta+54%Las Vegas+46%

Clearly, taking your sweetheart out for Valentine's Day was an absolute imperative in the Los Angeles area. You could take them to a drive-through chapel in Las Vegas after dinner, too. By contrast, these were the least romantic metro areas:


Metro areaChange in hospitality shifts bookedNew York-56%Austin-27%San Diego-10%Dallas-7%

Some people say that New York is a brutal, heartless place, and maybe they're right. But there wasn't as much tenderness as you might have expected in Texas, either.

The (lovey-dovey) nitty-gritty

Though it's fun to talk about how romantic different cities might be, we're also interested in how spikes in demand (and potential dips in supply) can affect our labor market. Looking across our entire platform, we can track the changes in shift bookings for different industries day by day during the month of February. This is what it looked like for restaurants, the epicenters of amorous activity:

31 Jan 2023 Valentines Day shifts - restaurants-1

Here the red line is on February 14. There's an increase in volume every weekend, as you might expect, but the peak starting on Friday, February 11 was bigger than any of the others, reaching close to 150% of the average daily volume for the month. The Super Bowl was played on Sunday, February 13, which probably pushed even more demand into Friday and Saturday. Now let's look at caterers and venues, who might be needed for larger celebrations:

31 Jan 2023 Valentines Day shifts - hospitality-1

We can see the peaks on weekends again, but the demand for flexible work among venues especially went through the roof just before Valentine's Day. For comparison, consider what was happening in these non-hospitality industries:

31 Jan 2023 Valentines Day shifts - light industrial

It's quite the opposite – weekends are slower in these businesses, and there's no discernible effect associated with Valentine's Day. No one was taking their honey out for a splendid evening at a warehouse.

Back in hospitality, basic economics tells us that a short-term spike in demand could push pay upward, too. This is exactly what we saw among caterers and venues:

31 Jan 2023 Valentines Day rates - hospitality

Just before Valentine's Day, hourly pay rates on our platform rose by an average of about 20% versus the rates for the rest of the month.

Yet look at what happened a week later – pay rose again! And there's a simple explanation: February 21 was Presidents' Day, so most workers had a long weekend. They apparently needed an extra inducement to come to work, even if they weren't preoccupied with delicious thoughts about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

Based on our advance bookings, we're expecting a big Valentine's Day for venues this year, while spending on restaurants and caterers might be a bit more restrained. That fits the data from the National Retail Federation, which suggest increased spending this year, but mainly on gifts rather than experiences. However you celebrate, we hope it's full of love!


Realtime metrics

These metrics, derived from data aggregated across the Instawork platform, compare the two weeks starting 1/19/2023 to the previous two weeks. To control for the overall growth of the Instawork marketplace, only shifts involving businesses that booked shifts in both periods are included:

  • $0.54 rise in hourly pay
  • 1.4% point rise in share of short-notice shifts
  • 1.6 hours rise in hours per existing worker

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