By Neil Irwin
The September jobs numbers are the 2018 United States economy in a nutshell: Even when an economic report is bad these days, it’s actually pretty good.
When the latest numbers first were broadcast at 8:30 a.m. Friday, it looked like a big disappointment. Employers added only 134,000 jobs to their payrolls last month, well below the levels of recent months and well below what forecasters had projected.
But even apart from the usual warnings about statistical error and randomness (the true rate of job creation could turn out to be either much higher or much lower), the numbers are a good bit better than that single data point suggests.
There’s reason to think that Hurricane Florence temporarily depressed the numbers by taking many hourly workers off the payrolls in the Carolinas. The number of leisure and hospitality jobs fell by 17,000, and retail jobs by 20,000 — both sectors prone to be affected.