Hurricane Impact: Economy Loses -33,000 Jobs in September


October 6, 2017

The latest jobs numbers are out from the federal government. What do they mean for job seekers and employers? Here’s a quick take from Glassdoor’s Chief Economist Dr. Andrew Chamberlain:

This morning’s jobs report revealed the U.S. economy lost -33,000 jobs in September, largely due to the combined effects of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. This marks the first monthly decline in jobs since September 2010, ending the economy’s historic 83-month streak of steady job gains.

Today’s report for jobs will likely be revised upward in coming months. A very similar report occurred in September 2005 following the devastating Hurricane Katrina, in which the initial BLS report listed losses of -35,000 jobs. However, those losses were later reversed by survey revisions, and the economy ultimately created +67,000 jobs in September 2005 despite the storm. Watch for a similar BLS revision of this month’s report in coming months.

A second surprise in this month’s report is wage growth. The BLS survey reports that average hourly wages were up a very robust 2.9 percent from a year ago in September — another figure likely affected by survey anomalies due to weather events. That’s a remarkable wage gain compared to the 2.5 percent pace we’ve seen for several consecutive months, and is also likely to be revised downward in future BLS releases.

This wage growth figure was likely artificially boosted by BLS survey anomalies in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma — and the fact that low-wage industries like leisure and hospitality recorded large job losses in September, temporarily boosting the overall average wage — rather than reflecting real wage pressures. The Glassdoor Local Pay Reports found median pay for full-time workers was up just 1.8 percent year-over-year in September.

The nation’s unemployment rate fell in September to a rock-bottom 4.2 percent, despite the labor force growing by an estimated 575,000 new workers. Even the nation’s labor force participation rate rose slightly in September to 63.1 percent, up a very large change of +0.2 percentage points.

Among industries, the biggest losses in September were in leisure and hospitality, which shed an incredible -111,000 jobs. They were followed by information (which includes most media) at -9,000 jobs, and non-durable good manufacturing (-5,000 jobs). The biggest job gains by industry were in transportation and warehousing (+21,800 jobs), health care (+13,100 jobs), and professional and business services (+13,000 jobs).

Taken together, today’s September BLS jobs report provides an eccentric view of the U.S. labor market, with many anomalies likely due to survey problems in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. The Houston metro is the nation’s sixth largest metro in terms of GDP, and recent storm damage clearly affected the reliability of the BLS survey in September. As following previous storms, expect large revisions to this month’s report in coming months.

To speak with Dr. Andrew Chamberlain about today’s jobs report or to discuss labor market trends, contact pr at Glassdoor dot com. For the latest economics and labor market updates, follow @adchamberlain on Twitter and subscribe to Glassdoor Economic Research.