These Are the Data Points That Will Show Harvey’s Economic Impact

Days of torrential downpours and widespread flooding along Texas’ Gulf Coast courtesy of Harvey will soon take on another formation — several months of unsettled national economic data.

While the hit to U.S. growth from natural disasters is limited due to the sheer size of the American economy, major weather events have typically led to significant swings in monthly data on employment, manufacturing and car sales. 

A cattle ranch entry gate is seen surrounded by floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey in West Columbia, Texas, on Aug. 30, 2017.

Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

The following charts offer a glimpse of some of the data points that will probably experience some volatility in aftermath of Tropical Storm Harvey, which made landfall as a hurricane near Corpus Christi and brought the Houston metropolitan area to a standstill.

One of the first economic releases that will likely be impacted are applications for unemployment insurance. Expect to see a bump in jobless claims in Harvey’s wake. Looking back at past storms, the behavior of jobless claims is consistent: Initial and continuing claims jump as displaced workers apply for financial assistance and businesses struggle to regain their footing. This development may take a few weeks to show up in the data.

“Once they pop, they are going to sit up there a while,” said Omair Sharif, senior U.S. economist at Societe Generale in New York. Down the road, “payrolls are almost certainly going to get hit.”

The government’s survey of households, part of the monthly jobs report, is generally taken during the calendar week that contains the 12th day of the month. That’s also the reference period for the establishment portion of the employment figures. Harvey made landfall on Aug. 25 and just recently moved away from the Houston area.

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