Friday's official data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics confirmed what market watchers had forecast: Back-to-back storms during the month of September meant economists were anticipating - at best - low double digit job gains, with the most optimistic pegging the latest jobs figure at 90,000. That compares with an average gain of 172,000 jobs per month over the last 12 months.
While jobs were lost, the unemployment rate dipped slightly to 4.2 percent as those listed as unemployed shrunk by 331,000.
On a more positive note, America's rate of unemployment rate, which is derived from the separate so-called "Household survey", fell sharply, retreating from 4.4% to 4.2%.
Last month, there were 1.6 million people considered marginally attached to the labor force, meaning they are available for work and want a job, but are not now in the labor force.
NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun expressed some excitement about the 2.9 percent wage growth in September, but communicated concern about the lack of new residential construction. Over the course of the past year, average hourly earnings have increased by 74 cents.
For the first time in seven years, jobs have been destroyed in the wake of the hurricanes that struck the u.s. territory.
Just in the catering industry alone, 105,000 positions for workers were lost due to the damage from the hurricanes.
"We should get a boost over the months ahead because you're going to have reconstruction efforts from insurance payments and federal aid", Faucher said. Bloomberg was calling for the rate to remain flat at the 4.4% rate reported for August. Hourly employees in the area who couldn't work and missed a paycheck would be counted as not working, thereby lowering the September job gain.
In September, the pool of unemployed individuals was at 6.8 million.
Private-sector economists have warned that the jobs figures, along with other economic data, will be skewed in coming months due to the hurricanes.
"We weren't able to do our normal hiring spree that we usually do going into the fall", Harmon said.
As a result, the nation's labor participation rate - the most critical employment indicator of them all - climbed 0.2 percent to 63.1 percent. That's the lowest such level in over a decade. "Other parts of the report were much stronger than expected", wrote Jim O'Sullivan, chief USA economist at High Frequency Economics. That suggests that pay could be picking up, even excluding the storms, and encouraging more people to look for work. However, real wages - the buying power of workers' earnings with inflation taken into account - have declined 7.5 percent since 2006.
The payroll survey does not include the US Caribbean territory of Puerto Rico, which was devastated last month by Hurricane Maria.
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