Media Blames Storms for End of Obama's Record Job Growth - But Is Hurricane Trump Really to Blame?

Media Blames Storms for End of Obama’s Record Job Growth – But Is Hurricane Trump Really to Blame?

The Mainstream Media Instantaneously Blamed Hurricanes Harvey and Maria for September’s Net-Loss of Jobs, but Past Storms Tell a Different Tale

The final jobs report of President Barack Obama’s presidency cemented his legacy as having overseen the longest consecutive streak of months with positive job growth since the end of the Great Depression. For the nation as a whole, that streak continued through the first eight months of Donald Trump’s tenure in the White House. With the release of the September 2017 jobs report, however, America’s streak came to a crashing halt with 33,000 jobs lost. It was the first month of net job losses in exactly seven years. And if you listen to most of the popular media, the reasoning is simple: Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Maria. End of story.

U.S. Lost 33,000 Jobs in September as Hurricanes Roared Throughwas the headline on the New York Times’ push alert. Business Insider stated “US Economy Sheds Jobs For First Time Since 2010 as Hurricanes Hit“. CBS News added, “U.S. Loses 33,000 Jobs after Hurricanes Slam Texas, Florida“. The Los Angeles TimesBBC News, Reuters and Trump’s punching bag du jour, NBC News, likewise led with hurricane-centric headlines.

To be fair, there is no denying that the destructive storms had an adverse economic impact. The Associated press dives deeper into the job losses, noting:

Last month’s drop was driven by huge losses in restaurants and bars, which shed 105,000 jobs, a sign of the damage to Florida’s tourism industry.

Past Hurricanes Did Not Register on Jobs Report like Maria and Harvey

The Atlantic and Gulf coasts have suffered intense hurricanes in the not-so-distant past. A study of their economic impacts doesn’t quite fit the media narrative that hurricanes equal job losses.

All jobs-related numbers courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics

  • Hurricane Katrina made landfall in late August 2005. It was the costliest storm in American history, with $108 Billion worth of damage. The economy added 67,000 jobs in September and an additional 84,000 in October. Hurricane Wilma followed in October yet November and December both posted over 500,000 jobs combined.
  • Hurricane Sandy, which decimated the economic hub of New York City to the tune of $71 Billion in October 2012 preceded 132,000 new jobs in November and even more in December.
  • Hurricane Ivan brought over $18 Billion worth of damage to the Southeast in September 2004 but the nation added 346,000 jobs the next month.
  • Hurricane Irene caused widespread flooding and storm damage up and down most of the Atlantic coast in late August 2011. It was the seventh-costliest storm in American history before the 2017 season. September and October totaled over 450,000 new jobs.
  • Hurricane Andrew — which was the most expensive hurricane ever until Katrina — still managed to lead into a net jobs report even though the country was still recovering from the early 1990’s recession.

All of the above hurricanes share something else in common: they all made landfall during periods of sustained job growth in the United States. Which leads to the economic impact of Hurricane Ike. When Ike made impact with Galveston, Texas in September 2008 it set off a chain of events that would lead to almost $30 Billion worth of damage. October saw job losses of 474,000. November was almost double that. Yet Ike was not to blame. The US had shed jobs each month since February of that year as the Global Financial Crisis shook the world economy.

Like the hurricanes mentioned earlier, the jobs report following Ike fit the greater trend of the economic circumstances when landfall was made.

All of which means that a distinct possibility exists that the jobs lost in September may not be as easily explained away by natural disasters as conventional media is making them out to be. Time will tell if America weathered the storm or was simply in the calm before it.

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Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore on flickr; Timetrax23 on flickr, Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)