The good news is September 2017 unemployment fell to a 16-year low at 4.2%. The bad news is that the United States lost jobs for the first time in seven years, ending the month with 33,000 fewer than in the previous month. The drop was widely attributed to Hurricanes Irma and Harvey driving down employment.
The hardest-hit sector by the hurricanes was leisure and hospitality, as restaurants and bars lost 105,000 jobs in September. The industry had previously been adding an average 24,000 jobs per month over the past year.
Another sector which lost jobs in September was manufacturing, after the industry cut 1,000 jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics regarded the manufacturing job loss as minimal. “Manufacturing employment was essentially unchanged in September,” the bureau stated in its report. “From a recent employment trough in November 2016 through August of this year, the industry had added an average of 14,000 jobs per month.”
Job growth was expected to bounce back in upcoming months as employees idled from the hurricanes were able to return to work. “Hurricane Irma, in particular, occurred during the period when the Labor Department surveys job growth,” NPR’s Jim Zarroli said. “So it’s likely to have an especially big impact.”
Industries which saw the biggest job gains were professional and business services (30,000 added), healthcare (23,000 added), and transportation and warehousing (22,000 added).
Economists stressed that the job losses were not likely the result of a long-term market shift, but rather the short-term consequences of the recent hurricanes. Prior to September, the economy had added an about 175,000 jobs per month, with unemployment being at 4.3% or 4.4% since April.
In September, wages rose 0.5%, or 12 cents an hour, to $26.55. This increase was likely attributable to the loss of servers and cooks, who tend to earn lower wages. If their pay had been included in calculations, the growth in pay would likely have been smaller.