The unemployment rate declined to 4.2 percent in September, and total nonfarm payroll employment changed little (-33,000), the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported Friday. A sharp employment decline in food services and drinking places and below-trend growth in some other industries likely reflected the impact of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey.
Hurricanes Irma and Harvey
Hurricane Irma made landfall in Florida on Sept. 10 — during the reference period for both the establishment and household surveys —causing severe damage in Florida and other parts of the Southeast. Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas on Aug. 25 — prior to the September reference periods — resulting in severe damage in Texas and other areas of the Gulf Coast. BLS analysis suggests that the net effect of these hurricanes was to reduce the estimate of total nonfarm payroll employment for September. There was no discernible effect on the national unemployment rate. No changes were made to either the establishment or household survey estimation procedures for the September figures.
The unemployment rate decreased by 0.2 percentage point to 4.2 percent in September, and the number of unemployed persons declined by 331,000 to 6.8 million. Both measures were down over the year.
Total nonfarm payroll employment was little changed in September (-33,000), after adding an average of 172,000 jobs per month over the prior 12 months. In September, a steep employment decline in food services and drinking places and below-trend growth in some other industries likely reflected the impact of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey. Employment rose in health care and in transportation and warehousing. Employment in food services and drinking places dropped sharply in September (-105,000), as many workers were off payrolls due to the recent hurricanes. Over the prior 12 months, food services and drinking places had added an average of 24,000 jobs per month.
Other industry employment results in September:
- Health care added 23,000 jobs, in line with its average monthly gain over the prior 12 months (+27,000). The employment increase in ambulatory health care services (+25,000) was partially offset by a decline in nursing care facilities (-9,000).
- Employment in transportation and warehousing increased by 22,000. Job gains occurred in warehousing and storage (+5,000), couriers and messengers (+4,000), and air transportation (+3,000).
- Employment in financial activities changed little (+10,000). A job gain in insurance carriers and related activities (+11,000) largely reflected hurricane-recovery efforts. The gain was partly offset by losses in activities related to credit intermediation (-4,000) and in commercial banking (-3,000). Over the year, financial activities has added 149,000 jobs.
- Employment in professional and business services was little changed (+13,000). Over the prior 12 months, job growth in the industry had averaged 50,000 per month.
- Manufacturing employment was essentially unchanged(-1,000). From a recent employment trough in November 2016 through August of this year, the industry had added an average of 14,000 jobs per month.
- Employment in other major industries, including mining, construction, wholesale trade, retail trade, information, and government, showed little change over the month.
The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for July was revised down from +189,000 to +138,000, and the change for August was revised up from +156,000 to +169,000. With these revisions, employment gains in July and August combined were 38,000 less than previously reported.