Hurricane-Battered U.S. Shed 33,000 Jobs in September

By Josh Mitchell and Ben Leubsdorf Features Dow Jones Newswires

The U.S. labor market shed jobs for the first time in seven years in September, suggesting the economy took a hit from hurricanes in Florida and Texas.

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Nonfarm employment fell by a seasonally adjusted 33,000 in September, the Labor Department said Friday, the first decline since September 2010. That ended seven straight years of job growth, including an average monthly gain of 172,000 in the 12 months through August.

The drop largely reflected a decline in restaurant jobs and slower hiring in other industries because of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, the agency said.

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate, calculated by a survey of households, fell two-tenths of a percentage point to 4.2%, a level not seen since early 2001. That survey showed national employment rose, along with a growing labor force.

Friday's report overall sent conflicting signals about the labor market, in part because its based on separate surveys--one of employers, the other of households--that don't always align precisely in any given month by typically point in the same direction over the longer term.

The agency said that while the payrolls figure was likely reduced by the hurricanes, "there was no discernible effect on the national unemployment rate." That could make the household survey a cleaner reading on underlying labor-market conditions last month.

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Workers' wages jumped last month, another figure that may have been affected by the storms. Average hourly earnings rose 12 cents, or 0.45% from a month earlier. Wages were 2.9% higher from a year earlier. One likely factor: Many low-wage workers were temporarily unemployed because of the storms, pushing up the overall average for a time.

Private-sector economists have warned that the jobs figures, along with other economic data, will be skewed in coming months due to the hurricanes. The distortions will make it hard for the Federal Reserve to understand the labor market's underlying strength as the central bank considers raising interest rates as early as December.

The Labor Department's employment report can be accessed at: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.toc.htm

-Write to Josh Mitchell at joshua.mitchell@wsj.com and Ben Leubsdorf at ben.leubsdorf@wsj.com.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 06, 2017 08:45 ET (12:45 GMT)