Top Stories
Top Stories

US jobs data could offer a glimpse of a choppy economic future after stark IMF weather warnings

Key Points
How do hurricanes affect the economy?

A recent report from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on how weather affects economic performance will come into sharper focus Friday, as new payrolls data are set to be released in the United States.

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma may have wiped as many as 125,000 jobs from the September employment report, according to a Reuters survey of economists. The same consensus is calling for a total of 90,000 new jobs for Friday's number.

The IMF research warned that weather impacts may have lasting effects on economies. The report, released at the end of September, points back to the unprecedented rise in global temperatures over the last 40 years and warns that the increasing global temperatures may end up lowering output, particularly in countries with warm climates.

Hurricane season expected to weigh on September payroll data

It's impossible to blame climate change for any individual storm, and much scientific modeling forecasts the effects of climate change to evolve over many years. The weather's effect on the economy will vary from year to year and quarter to quarter.

But the IMF research predicts that warmer temperatures will eventually lead to agricultural output declines and a reduction in productivity. It also spells out how climate scientists are predicting more intense and destructive storms as the sea surface temperature continues to rise with their analysis suggesting that "the average country would suffer an additional 0.1 percent of per capita output loss every time it is hit by an average tropical cyclone, with smaller states experiencing 0.2 percent greater damage."

Tropical cyclones and hurricanes are one of the most destructive forces of nature, and have cumulatively caused damage of $548 billion worldwide during 2000 to 2014, according to the International Disasters Database.

Variation in estimates

For the U.S. on Friday, the variation in estimates for the September payrolls number is the largest it has been since September 2010 — which was the last time the nonfarm payrolls (NFP) printed a negative number. On the lower end of the range, Jefferies bank is forecasting a negative 45,000 print for the Friday report while on the upper end, Mizuho Bank is holding on to a 175,000 forecast — in line with the average over the last 12 months.

A truck is seen on its side after being blown over as Hurricane Irma passed through on September 10, 2017 in Miami, Florida. Hurricane Irma, which first made landfall in the Florida Keys as a Category 4 storm on Sunday, has weakened to a Category 2 as it moves up the coast.
Getty Images

As detailed on the BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) website, major disaster declarations for Hurricanes Harvey and Irma covered over 10 percent of the U.S. population and over 6.5 million Floridians were without power in the middle of the payroll survey week.

The adverse weather has also pulled down GDP (gross domestic product) tracking forecasts. As hurricane damage evaluations have settled in the $70 to $100 billion range many analysts are now expecting a near-term slowdown in growth indicators. Goldman Sachs analysts have estimated that the weather disruptions could reduce third-quarter GDP growth by as much as 1 percentage point. They note, however, that the weakness should reverse over the subsequent three quarters as reconstruction efforts pick up, more than recouping the lost output in the short run.