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Impact from unprecedented hurricane season could wipe out U.S. job growth in September

  • The unprecedented impact from hurricanes that hit the mainland U.S. could have completely wiped out job growth in the month of September.
  • Hurricane Harvey may have had some slight impact on August's employment report, which showed 156,000 payrolls were added. But the combination of Irma and Harvey together could negate much of the job growth in unaffected parts of the U.S. in September.
Discarded furniture and other household items sit on the curb outside of a flooded home in Orange as Texas slowly moves toward recovery from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey on September 7, 2017 in Orange, Texas.
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Discarded furniture and other household items sit on the curb outside of a flooded home in Orange as Texas slowly moves toward recovery from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey on September 7, 2017 in Orange, Texas.

The unprecedented double whammy from major hurricanes that slammed the U.S. mainland could wipe out job growth in September, and some economists expect an actual decline.

Hurricane Harvey may have already had a slight impact on job growth in August. There were 156,000 jobs created,less than economists expected. But Irma, which resulted in major evacuations in Florida and other parts of the Southeast arrived in September, around the time the government gathers data for its monthly report.

Jefferies economists expect the combination of both those hurricanes to result in a 45,000 decline in nonfarm payrolls for September. While that appears to be the lowest forecast available so far, some firms have not released estimates yet.

"It was the aftermath of one combined with the initial impact of the other. The area affected was bigger than it was for Hurricane Katrina," said Tom Simons, money market economist at Jefferies. He said Katrina resulted in a loss of 35,000 nonfarm payrolls in the month after it hit the New Orleans area.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said it includes the data on Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands in state and metro area data, but does not include them in the national estimate.

Economists expect the hurricanes to initially slow U.S. economic growth, which should rebound in future months from rebuilding. The toll on job growth, one of the most important signs of strength for the U.S. economy, should also reverse.

Correction: September jobs data should be the month most impacted by the hurricanes that hit the U.S. mainland. An earlier version misstated that October data would also be impacted because of Puerto Rican employment, which is collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics but not included in nonfarm payrolls.