Hurricane Irma cost Florida 127K jobs, but most will return

By CHRISTOPHER RUGABER Features Associated Press

Employers cut jobs in six U.S. states last month, particularly in hurricane-hit Florida, while hiring increased in five and was mostly unchanged in 39 states.

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The Labor Department said Friday that Florida lost 127,000 jobs last month, mostly in hotels, restaurants and in construction, after Hurricane Irma flooded much of the state. Texas lost 7,300 jobs, mostly because of Harvey. Most of those job losses will prove temporary, and hiring should bounce back in the coming months.

The state data provide a more complete picture of how Hurricanes Harvey and Irma affected the U.S. job market. Nationwide, employers shed 33,000 jobs in September, the government said earlier this month, the first job loss in seven years. Yet the unemployment rate fell to 4.2 percent, a fresh 16-year low, from 4.4 percent. That's because the way the government calculates the rate is less affected by the storms.

The state-level data suggests that outside of Texas and Florida, companies added about 100,000 jobs. That is below the average monthly gain of 170,000 through August.

Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands were unable to collect job data last month because of the devastation from Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

California recorded the largest job gain last month, adding 52,200, followed by Washington state with 13,800 and Indiana with 11,400 new jobs.

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On a percentage basis, total jobs in Nebraska grew 0.5 percent, the most in any state, followed by 0.4 percent gains in Arizona, Indiana, and Washington state.

Unemployment rates fell in 11 states, led by Alabama, where the rate declined from 4.2 percent to 3.8 percent. The rate rose significantly in four states, with Michigan reporting the biggest increase, to 4.3 percent from 3.9 percent.

North Dakota reported the nation's lowest unemployment rate, at 2.4 percent, followed by Colorado and Hawaii at 2.5 percent each.