US Jobless Rate Dips Despite Hurricanes' Hit To Payrolls

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The U.S. shed 33,000 jobs in September because of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which closed thousands of businesses in Texas and Florida and forced widespread evacuations.

Friday's official data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics confirmed what market watchers had forecast: Back-to-back storms during the month of September meant economists were anticipating - at best - low double digit job gains, with the most optimistic pegging the latest jobs figure at 90,000. Food services and drinking places alone lost 105,000 jobs.

There was a significant impact on the data from hurricanes Harvey and Irma with a notable dip in employment numbers for the month due to storm damage.

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Economists had expected the addition of 80,000 jobs last month, but that was before the effects of Harvey and Irma were known. That ended seven straight years of job growth, including an average monthly gain of 172,000 in the 12 months through August.

"The labor market remains in good shape", said Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC Financial.

Manufacturing job growth took a breather in September. The labor force participation rate was unchanged at 63.1% and the employment-population ratio increased by 0.3 percentage point to 60.4%. The broadest measure of unemployment is known as the U6 rate, which includes all unemployed, those who are working part time while looking for a full time job, and those who aren't looking now for a job - but still want one, and have worked in the past year. Employees who weren't paid during the Labor Department's survey week (of September 12) were not counted as employed. That is the highest level of annual wage growth in more than eight years, and it means some people are getting more in their paychecks.

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Workers' wages jumped last month, another figure that may have been affected by the storms. The areas hit by the storms employ 11 million Americans, and many of those jobs were temporarily halted due to the storms.

Employment in other major industries, including mining, construction, wholesale trade, retail trade, information, and government, showed little change over the month.

The jobs report does not include the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. The number of people describing themselves as unemployed fell to 6.8 million, the fewest since March 2007, before the Great Recession began. Factory activity expanded at the fastest pace in more than 13 years.

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