WASHINGTON – Hurricanes Harvey and Irma hobbled U.S. hiring last month, with businesses adding just 135,000 jobs, the fewest in nearly a year, a private survey found.
Payroll processor ADP said the hiring drop-off in September was concentrated in smaller businesses, particularly smaller retailers, many of which were forced to close in Texas and Florida because of the hurricanes. Smaller shops are less likely to have the resources and stockpiles of goods to quickly recover.
Job gains in August were revised slightly lower to 228,000, ADP said.
Excluding the storms’ impact, the job market looks solid. Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, which helps compile the report, said the storms probably cost roughly 50,000 to 60,000 jobs. Without the hurricanes, hiring would have been closer to the average pace of the last two years of about 185,000.
Job gains at that level are enough to cut the unemployment rate over time. The rate in August was 4.4 percent, near a 16-year low.
“Extracting from the effects of the storms, which are temporary, the labor market is fine,” Zandi said.
Economists forecast the government’s jobs report, to be released Friday, will also show a drop in hiring to just 80,000 jobs because of the hurricanes, according to data provider FactSet. The ADP report doesn’t include government payrolls and often diverges from the official figures.
Health care firms added 28,000 jobs and professional and business services, which include accounting and engineering, gained 51,000, ADP said. Manufacturers added 18,000 and construction firms hired 29,000 workers.
While the economy and hiring have slowed in the aftermath of the hurricanes, they should pick up in the coming months as rebuilding and recovery efforts accelerate. Zandi said last month’s strong construction hiring could partly reflect the early stages of rebuilding.
In another example of the hurricanes’ economic impact, auto sales jumped 6.1 percent to more than 1.5 million in September, according to Autodata Corp., as Americans began to replace destroyed cars.
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