Hurricanes Harvey, Irma expected to dim US jobs growth in short term
Hurricanes Harvey, Irma expected to dim US jobs growth in short term
According to a Reuters survey of economists, the Labor Department’s closely watched employment report on Friday will likely show that nonfarm payrolls increased by 90,000 jobs last month after rising by 156,000 in August.
The projected job gains for September would be the second smallest this year and well below the 175,000 monthly average for the 12 months through August. They would follow on the heels of August’s disappointing employment growth, which economists blamed on a seasonal quirk.
Payrolls are calculated from a survey of employers, which treats any worker who was not paid for any part of the pay period that includes the 12th of the month as unemployed.
Economists estimate that Harvey and Irma, which wreaked havoc in Texas and Florida, cut as many as 125,000 jobs from payrolls in September.
“We are going to get a lot of the jobs back and we are going to see hiring related to the clean-up and rebuilding into early 2018 as well,” said Ryan Sweet, senior economist at Moody’s Analytics in West Chester, Pennsylvania.
Economists say a weak employment report should not change views the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates in December. Fed Chair Janet Yellen cautioned last month that the hurricanes could “substantially” weigh on September job growth, but expected the effects would “unwind relatively quickly.”
The US central bank said last month it expected “labor market conditions will strengthen somewhat further.”
“Given this, we suspect the financial markets will also take any hurricane-related weakness to the September employment report in stride, maintaining an elevated probability for a December Fed interest rate hike,” said Sam Bullard, a senior economist at Wells Fargo in Charlotte, North Carolina.
According to the Labor Department, the Texas and Florida areas affected by the storms employed 11.2 million people in March 2017, representing 7.7 percent of US employment.
Excluding the weather impact, economists say the labor market continues to tighten. The employment report would join August consumer spending, industrial production, homebuilding and home sales data in suggesting that the hurricanes will dent economic growth in the third quarter.
Economists estimate that the back-to-back storms, including Hurricane Maria which destroyed infrastructure in Puerto Rico last month, could shave at least six-tenths of a percentage point from third-quarter gross domestic product growth.
Growth estimates for the July-September period are as low as a 1.8 percent annualized rate. The economy grew at a 3.1 percent rate in the second quarter.
Harvey and Irma are not expected to have an impact on the unemployment rate, which is forecast holding steady at 4.4 percent for September. The smaller survey of households from which the jobless rate is derived treats persons as employed regardless of whether they missed work during the reference week and were unpaid as result.
The household survey could reflect the impact of the storms on employment by showing the number of workers who were stranded at home because of bad weather as well as those who were forced to work part-time.
There was probably no impact on the length of the average workweek from the storms.
“There are competing forces at play in September, where hours worked in many sectors will see shutdown-related cuts, while hours worked for clean-up and reconstruction efforts will get extended,” said Ellen Zentner, chief economist at Morgan Stanley in New York.
With the hurricane-driven temporary unemployment concentrated in low-paying industries like retail and leisure and hospitality, average wage growth is forecast picking up.
Average hourly earnings are forecast increasing 0.3 percent in September after rising 0.1 percent in August. Still, the annual increase in wages probably remained stuck at 2.5 percent for a sixth straight month.
Annual wage growth of at least 3.0 percent is needed to raise inflation to the Fed’s 2 percent target, analysts say.
Construction payrolls likely fell in September, bearing the brunt of the bad weather. Manufacturing employment is forecast increasing by 10,000 jobs after surging 36,000 in August, which was the most in four years.
Rising oil prices haven’t hurt the US economy so far as economy grows at its fastest rate in nearly four years
- US economy grew at its fastest rate in nearly four years during the April-through-June quarter.
- Oil prices have been up roughly 40 percent in the past year. On Friday, benchmark US crude was trading around $71 a barrel, and the international standard, Brent, was closing in on $80.
DALLAS: The US’s rediscovered prowess in oil production is shaking up old notions about the impact of higher crude prices on the country’s economy.
It has long been conventional wisdom that rising oil prices hurt the economy by forcing consumers to spend more on gasoline and heating their homes, leaving less for other things.
Presumably that kind of run-up would slow the US economy. Instead, the economy grew at its fastest rate in nearly four years during the April-through-June quarter.
Despite this, President Donald Trump appears plainly worried about rising oil prices just a few weeks before midterm elections that will decide which party controls the House and Senate.
“We protect the countries of the Middle East, they would not be safe for very long without us, and yet they continue to push for higher and higher oil prices!” Trump tweeted on Thursday. “We will remember. The OPEC monopoly must get prices down now!“
Members of OPEC, who account for about one-third of global oil supplies, are scheduled to meet this weekend with non-members including Russia.
The gathering is not expected to yield any big decisions — those typically come at major OPEC meetings such as the one set for December. Oil markets, however, were roiled on Friday by a report that attendees were considering a significant increase in production to offset declining output from Iran, where exports have fallen ahead of Trump’s reimposition of sanctions.
OPEC and Russia have capped production since January 2017 to bolster prices. Output fell even below those targets this year, and in June the same countries agreed to boost the oil supply, although they didn’t give numbers.
Oil prices have been up roughly 40 percent in the past year. On Friday, benchmark US crude was trading around $71 a barrel, and the international standard, Brent, was closing in on $80.
The national average price for gasoline stood at $2.85 per gallon, up 10 percent from a year ago, according to auto club AAA. That increase likely would be greater were it not for a slump in gasoline demand that is typical for this time of year, when summer vacations are over.
The US still imports about six million barrels of oil a day on average, but that is down from more than 10 million a decade ago. In the same period, US production has doubled to more than 10 million barrels a day, according to government figures.
“Because the US now is producing so much more than it used to, (the rise in oil prices) is not as big an impact as it would have been 20 years ago or 10 years ago,” said Michael Maher, an energy researcher at Rice University and a former Exxon Mobil economist.
The weakening link between oil and the overall economy was seen — in reverse — just three years ago. Then, plunging oil prices were expected to boost the economy by leaving more money in consumers’ pocket, yet GDP growth slowed at the same time that lower oil prices took hold during 2015.
Other economists caution against minimizing the disruption caused by energy prices.
“Higher oil prices are unambiguously bad for the US economy,” said Philip Verleger, an economist who has studied energy markets. “They force consumers to divert their income from spending on other items to spending on fuels.”
Since energy amounts to only about 3 percent of consumer spending, a cutback in that other 97 percent “causes losses for those who sell autos, restaurants, airlines, resorts and all parts of the economy,” Verleger said.
The federal Energy Information Administration said this month that the US likely reclaimed the title of world’s biggest oil producer earlier this year by surpassing the output of Saudi Arabia in February and Russia over the summer. If the agency’s estimates are correct, it would mark the first time since 1973 that the US has led the oil-pumping pack.