Hurricanes could knock 50,000 jobs off Friday's government data, says Barclays economist

  • "The Fed has already signaled the data is going to be noisy and they expect some weakness," Michael Gapen says.
  • "The average hurricane since the 1980s takes about 50,000 off of employment growth," he estimates.
  • The impact of Harvey and Irma feel a bit worse than average, but not as bad as Katrina and Rita in 2005, he says.

Disruptions from a pair of hurricanes could prove to be a drag on job growth data for last month, the chief U.S. economist at Barclays told CNBC on Wednesday.

"The average hurricane since the 1980s takes about 50,000 off of employment growth," Michael Gapen said on "Squawk Box," two days before the government reports its September employment report. He said the impact of Harvey and Irma feel a bit worse than average, but not as bad as Katrina and Rita in 2005.

The flooding devastation is still being felt from Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall along the Texas Gulf Coast on Aug. 25 and struck Louisiana five days later.

Hurricane Irma made two landfalls in Florida in September — in the Keys and near Marco Island.

"The consensus, which we're pretty much in line with, is roughly 100,000 lower than the recent trend. But it'll be a one-month story. You'll get it back next month," Gapen said.

The monthly average in nonfarm payrolls was 185,000 from June through August.

Economists expect September payroll growth of 93,000 positions and the unemployment rate holding steady at 4.4 percent, according to Thomson Reuters.

While the markets may react to a lower-than-expected number, "the Fed has already signaled the data is going to be noisy and they expect some weakness," Gapen said.

In what's viewed a curtain-raiser on Friday's government jobs report, the ADP/Moody's private-sector report on Wednesday morning showed 135,000 jobs were added last month. One of the worst hurricane seasons ever was blamed for the lower-than expected reading, which marked the lowest jobs increase at U.S. corporations in 11 months.

Gapen spoke before the ADP report was released.

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