U.S. payrolls drop in aftermath of hurricane damage

U.S. payrolls posted their first monthly decline in seven years, according to labor estimates that took into account the effects of hurricane damage in Texas and Florida.

Nonfarm payrolls decreased 33,000 in September, the Labor Department reported. The unemployment rate also fell, however  — two-tenths of a point to 4.2 percent.

Damage caused by Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Hurricane Irma in Florida reduced payroll employment, but didn’t affect the overall jobless rate, the Labor Department said.

Initial estimates for payroll gains in August were revised upward 13,000 to 169,000. But the initial estimate for July was revised downward 51,000 to 138,000. The net result was 38,000 fewer jobs than first believed.

For September, 6.8 million people were counted among those unsuccessfully looking for work. Of those, 1.7 million have been out of work for 27 weeks or longer. Another
5.1 million people were counted among those working part-time because their hours have been cut or they were unable to find full-time positions. The labor participation rate edged up two-tenths of a point to 63.1 percent.

Employment at food services and drinking places dropped 105,000 as workers were off payrolls in the aftermath of the hurricanes. Health care payrolls increased 23,000 in September, while employment rose 22,000 in transportation and warehousing, 13,000 in professional services and 10,000 in financial activities.

The average workweek for employees on private, nonfarm payrolls held steady at 34.4 hours. The manufacturing workweek remained unchanged at 40.7 hours.

Average hourly earnings for employees  on private,  nonfarm payrolls rose 12 cents to $26.55. Average hourly earnings have increased 74 cents over the past year.