When nature shows its fury, in the short term lives are lost, property is damaged, and losses run into the billions. Job losses are one of the longer-term consequences of natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. Employment has already taken a hit in recent weeks, and there is a great concern in Florida and Texas about U.S. job losses in Sept. 2017.
Hurricane Harvey’s Impact on Jobs and Economy in Texas
The coastal regions in Texas were deeply impacted by Harvey. Apart from flooding and destruction of property, there were also shutdowns in various industries and job layoffs in Texas.
Oil and Gas Industry
With heavy rains and flooding, most oil rigs and drilling platforms were temporarily shut down, reducing oil and gas production. The direct impact of these shutdowns can be seen in the increase in the per-gallon price of gasoline. But the long-term impact can only be gauged by the number of job losses in Texas. Workers who are dependent on the oil industry are in a state of turmoil as the shutdowns have hurt their earnings.
Fishing and Hunting
The impact of Harvey on Texas has extended to the fishing and hunting industry. With Harvey shutting down fishing and hunting in Texas’s coastal regions, there has been a loss of business and income. There are also damaged hunting resorts and habitats and displaced wildlife.
Trends in Job Loss Claims
Regarding job losses in Texas and nationwide, the federal government reported that initial jobless claims had risen by 62,000 to 298,000 in late August, hitting their highest level in over two years. Most of this increase was attributed to Texas, which was hit hardest by Hurricane Harvey.
Hurricane Irma’s Impact on Jobs and Economy in Florida
Citrus Farming and Tourism Industries
The impact of Irma on Florida was greatest in the citrus-growing regions and tourist areas. The extent of the damage to properties and citrus crops was still being accounted for when this article was written. It’s estimated that the impact of both Irma and Harvey could slow overall U.S. economic growth by a full percentage point in the current quarter. Florida alone employs 1.4 million people in its hospitality and tourism industry, which is worth $90.0-billion and is a major driver of the state’s economy. Any negative impact on tourism is a direct strike against the state’s finances and the U.S. economy as a whole.
Jobs and Rebuilding
It’s common for the surge in unemployment after a natural disaster to eventually fade out, and in fact the herculean task of rebuilding after hurricanes tends to bring about additional employment opportunities. However, the situation in Florida is complicated by the state’s reliance on undocumented workers, who are not represented in government employment data.
With the recent deportation drives against undocumented immigrants and the overall political situation in the U.S., undocumented workers may avoid states like Florida, which may cause a shortage of employees and difficulties in rebuilding the economy.
The immediate cost of repairing damaged properties will run into the billions, and getting the right kind of employees and contractors for the job is going to be a challenge.
Florida, like Texas, has reported a large number of jobless claims. For the week ended September 23, unadjusted claims for Florida increased by 8,160. As expected, job layoffs in Florida coincided with the landfall of Hurricane Irma. With a large number of farms and tourist spots facing winds of up to 130 mph, they were deemed unsafe and thousands of workers were laid off.
Hurricane Harvey and Irma’s Impact on Daily Lives
Even after hurricanes lose their strength and die down, they continue to affect the daily lives of the people who were in their path. Daily disruptions that the people of Florida and Texas are still facing include road closures, diversions, and disconnected power and communication lines. Roads including freeways are closed for repairs, which results in delays and traffic snarls that impact people’s daily commute and productivity.
Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma were bigger than many previous storms and their impact was much greater. Officials have said that recovery will be a years-long process. It remains to be seen how Florida and Texas will emerge from these disasters, how the overall U.S. economy will be impacted, and whether the fallout will have any bearing on the global economy.
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“Could Hurricane Harvey impact South Florida’s homeowner insurance rates?,” Miami Herald, last accessed September 27, 2017.