U.S. Employment: Mostly Slow Growth Despite Hurricanes

Hurricane seen from space

For the first time in over seven years, overall employment took a small step backward in September, according to the latest Employment Situation Summary from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Despite this mis-step, CompTIA reported that IT employment bucked the trend and shows a modest increase in September.

 

Overall, however, most major indices stood pat, or improved slightly, as unemployment dropped to 4.2 percent and the employment population ratio increased to 60.4 percent. The U.S. BLS explains the September dip as a function of the impacts of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, both of which slammed into U.S. Caribbean territories and the U.S. mainland in September:

 

"Our analysis suggests that the net effect of these hurricanes was to reduce the estimate of total nonfarm payroll employment for September."

 

The CompTIA IT Employment Tracker for September 2017, shows IT employment occupation at a recent high of just under 4.9 million, and IT Sector employment at 4.445 million, for a total of over 9.3 million IT jobs across all employment sectors.

 

Their analysis also shows 3,200 IT jobs added for last month, bucking the slight dip in overall employment. Winning IT sectors for September included IT and software services/computer systems design (+4,200 jobs); computer, electronics and semiconductor manufacturing (+3,000 jobs), and data processing, hosting, and related jobs (+300 jobs).

 

Losing IT sectors included telecommunications (-1,900 jobs) and other information services, including search portals (-2,400 jobs). The highest-demand IT jobs, as measured by IT occupation job postings, include software developers, computer systems engineers and architects, computer systems analysts, computer user support specialists, and Web developers.

 

Fast food dishwasher

According to the US BLS, the sector breakdown for September included some interesting gains and losses:

 

Food services dropped by a fairly steep -105,000 jobs, which the Summary attributes to workers "off payrolls due to the recent hurricanes." Manufacturing was down by 1,000 jobs for September as well.
Health care added 23,000 jobs, and transportation and housing added 22,000 jobs.
Employment in financial activities increased by +10,000 jobs, of which 11,000 jobs added at insurance carriers and related activities accounted for most of the bump, offset by losses in credit intermediation (-4,000 jobs) and commercial banking (-3,000 jobs).
Professional and business services grew by a slight 13,000 jobs, down strongly from the 50,000 monthly average for the preceding 12-month period.
Other major sectors, namely, mining, construction, wholesale and retail trades, information, and government were mostly flat.

 

Thus, most of the job losses appear to fall directly on food services and drinking establishments, in line with reductions related to the hurricanes and their impacts on the Caribbean, Gulf and southeastern Atlantic coasts.

 

With Hurricanes Maria and Nate also impacting the U.S. mainland and Caribbean territories more recently, I wouldn't be surprised to see modest job losses or mostly absent growth for October as well, when those numbers become available next month.

 

When Mother Nature puts her thumb on the employment scales, we can expect them to move to lighten growth until post-recovery cleanup efforts kick into high gear, with construction most likely to benefit (and food services likely to rebound as well).

 

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