U.S. Lost 33,000 Jobs in September; Unemployment Rate Dips to 4.2%

Staggering from the impact of hurricanes that walloped Texas, Florida and neighboring states, the economy lost 33,000 jobs in September, the first monthly decline in employment in seven years, the government reported on Friday. But economists discounted the discouraging report, describing it as a blip in a job market that was fundamentally strong. Some of the good news released by the Labor Department — a drop in the jobless rate to 4.2 percent and a year-over-year gain in wage growth of 2.9 percent — may also have been skewed by weather disruptions. “The numbers were certainly blown around a lot by the storms,” said Carl Tannenbaum, chief economist for Northern Trust. For that reason, he said, the Federal Reserve, which has been scrutinizing the employment report for signs of inflation, will probably look past this report. “As winds calm,” he said, “my guess is employment figures will stabilize.” That pattern held true for Bruce Gropper, who runs Right at Home, a home-care franchise in Palm Beach, Fla. “We put our hiring on hold” because of the weather, Mr. Gropper said, adding that many of the 50 to 75 caregivers who work for him and would typically have been in the field were unable or unavailable to work during a two-week period. “Now, things are back to normal.” It was the same in Texas. “There’s a lot of manufacturing jobs in Beaumont, Corpus Christi, Houston, all of which suffered damage,” noted Ray Perryman, president of the Perryman Group, an economic research and analysis firm based in Waco, Tex. “Some of these plants were shut down for an extended period of time, and that would have gotten into the September survey.” One upside may be a surge in hiring in subsequent months. Using Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 as a benchmark, Jim O’Sullivan, chief United States economist at High Frequency Economics, said he expected payrolls to bounce back by the end of the year. “There’s no question there were huge hurricane effects,” he said. Food and drinking establishments alone lost 105,000 jobs last month, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the number of people who said they were not working because of bad weather jumped by 1.5 million.


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