The NY Times has some decent economic news, which will probably be rendered meaningless by the past week’s events:
The economy created 169,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate fell to a four-year low, the government reported today, indicating the economy was still growing briskly last month in spite of higher energy prices.
But with more than half a million people displaced and the nation’s oil and gasoline facilities still struggling to recover from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, it remains unclear how the economy will fare in the coming months, economists said. Many analysts have already downgraded their forecast for future growth and say the chances of a recession have increased.
“We know that going into the hurricane the economy was fine, things were status quo,” said Joshua Shapiro, chief United States economist at MFR Inc., a New York-based research firm. “The problem with the hurricane is in addition to being a regional disaster and a tragedy, it has affected the energy industry and international trade.”
The jobs number was slightly below economists expectations of 190,000 jobs but the jobless rate, at 4.9 percent, down from 5 percent in July, was lower than predicted because the number of Americans who said they were employed rose faster than the total labor force. Strong gains were seen in the construction sector (up by 25,000 jobs) and education and health services (up 43,000 jobs), while manufacturers cut back their payrolls by another 14,000 jobs.
With gasoline prices topping $3 a gallon in much of the country and a swelling population of displaced refugees in states along the Gulf of Mexico, the economy may not be able to sustain its earlier upward course.
I have no idea where to even begin speculating about the impact of Katrina.