US Unemployment Drops Slightly, but Economy Sheds Some Jobs

The U.S. economy lost 33,000 jobs in September, reflecting the impact of hurricanes hitting the states of Florida and Texas, as well as other areas.

Friday’s report from the Labor Department also said the unemployment rate fell slightly to 4.2 percent, the lowest jobless figure since 2001.

Economists said many of those lost jobs were in Florida’s restaurants and bars, where storm damage, blackouts and closed airports hurt business. It is the first time in seven years the U.S. economy has had a net loss of jobs. Until September, the economy had been adding an average of more than 170,000 jobs each month this year.

The head of Randstad Sourceright, a firm that tracks global workforce trends, says the need to rebuild parts of Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico already is creating jobs in construction and other trades. Rebecca Henderson says she expects to see demand for more temporary jobs in the coming months.

While there was a net loss of jobs in the overall economy, the construction industry added 8,000 jobs in September, according to the Associated General Contractors. Construction firms continued to complain about a tight labor market and shortage of workers with key skills.  

American Enterprise Institute scholar Aparna Mathur says the impact of the hurricanes will probably pass in a few months, and notes improvements in the jobless rate, number of involuntary part-time employees, wages and other areas. IHS Markit economist Ben Herzon says the U.S. economy was benefiting from “solid momentum” before the hurricanes. 

At the same time, government data show 6.8 million Americans are out of work, which is a decline of more than 300,000 people over the past year. Another 5.1 million want full-time work, but can find only part-time employment.

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