Hurricanes cause rare monthly US job loss but rebound likely

Published: Friday, October 06, 2017 @ 6:42 AM
Updated: Friday, October 06, 2017 @ 6:40 AM

            In this Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017, photo, Phil Wiggett, right, a recruiter with the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, looks at a resume during a job fair in San Jose, Calif. On Friday, Oct. 6, 2017, the U.S. government issues the September jobs report. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
In this Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017, photo, Phil Wiggett, right, a recruiter with the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, looks at a resume during a job fair in San Jose, Calif. On Friday, Oct. 6, 2017, the U.S. government issues the September jobs report. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

A pullback in U.S. hiring last month resulting from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma will likely prove short-lived, with a resilient job market pointing to gains in the coming months.

The unemployment rate fell to a fresh 16-year low of 4.2 percent, from 4.4 percent, the Labor Department said Friday in its September jobs report. The proportion of Americans with jobs rose to a nearly nine-year high. And even long-dormant wage growth showed signs of picking up.

The economy lost 33,000 jobs last month — the first monthly loss in nearly seven years — as the hurricanes closed thousands of businesses in Texas, Florida and other parts of the Southeast. Yet hiring is widely expected to rebound in coming months as companies reopen and bring back workers and construction firms ramp up repair and renovation work.

Previous natural disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005, also inflicted short-term job losses that were followed by intensified hiring.

"The labor market remains in good shape," said Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC Financial. "The job losses were due to disruptions from hurricanes, not underlying weakness in the economy."

Outside of hurricane-hit areas, many Americans found work. The number of people describing themselves as unemployed fell to 6.8 million, the fewest since March 2007, before the Great Recession began.

That sign of health makes it appear all but certain that the Federal Reserve will raise its benchmark short-term interest rate in December. According to data from the CME Group, investors now foresee an 88 percent chance of a Fed rate hike then.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen has said she expects pay raises to accelerate as unemployment declines. That, in turn, might lift inflation closer to the Fed's annual 2 percent target level if companies raised prices to pay for higher salaries.

Last month's drop was driven by huge losses in restaurants and bars, which accounted for 105,000 fewer jobs, a sign of the damage to Florida's tourism industry. Overall, roughly 1.5 million people were unable to work last month because of the weather, the government said, the most in 20 years.

Hourly workers who couldn't work because of the storms last month and missed a paycheck would have been counted as not working in the government's survey of businesses, thereby lowering September's job total. That's true even if those employees returned to work after the storm passed or will return.

The unemployment rate fell because it is calculated with a separate survey of households. That survey counted people as employed even if they were temporarily out of work because of the storms. In fact, the proportion of adults who have jobs rose to 60.4 percent, the highest since January 2009.

That's a sign that the low unemployment rate is pulling more Americans off the sidelines and back into the job market. During the recession and the sluggish recovery that followed, many people gave up searching for work.

Dan Harmon, chief operating officer of Smoothie King, a 900-store chain based near New Orleans, said the storms temporarily closed 66 stores in the Houston area and disrupted the company's end-of-summer hiring. One store was so damaged it still hasn't reopened.

In August and September, the company typically hires new employees to replace college workers who return to school. But that process was delayed in Florida and Texas.

"We weren't able to do our normal hiring spree that we usually do going into the fall," Harmon said.

The storms also disrupted the company's expansion plans. It opened 65 stores nationwide in the July-September quarter. It would have opened four more, but they were damaged while under construction. Each Smoothie King employs about 15 hourly workers and two to three managers.

Nationwide, an alternative barometer of the labor force that includes not only the unemployed but also part-time workers who'd prefer full-time jobs, fell to 8.3 percent. That's the lowest such level in over a decade.

Average hourly wages rose a healthy 2.9 percent from 12 months earlier. That trend was probably inflated by the loss of so many lower-paid workers in hurricane-hit areas. Higher-paid workers likely disproportionately boosted the wage figure.

"We think the magnitude of this distortion was quite small and the underlying wage numbers are indeed firming," said Michael Feroli, an economist at JPMorgan Chase.

The government on Friday also revised up wage gains in August — before the hurricanes hit — to a 2.7 percent annual rate, from 2.5 percent. That suggests that pay could be picking up, even excluding the storms, and encouraging more people to look for work.

More than 11 million people had been employed in the 87 counties in Texas and Florida that were declared disaster areas, the government says. That's equal to about 7.7 percent of the nation's workforce.

Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, which were hammered by Hurricane Maria, aren't included in the national unemployment report. Their data will be included in the state jobs figures to be released Oct. 20.

The mostly solid employment numbers come after other signs the economy is solid. This week, a survey of services firms — covering restaurants, construction companies, retail stores, banks and others — found that they expanded in September at their fastest monthly pace since 2005. That followed a survey of manufacturers, which found an equally strong gain. Factory activity expanded at the fastest pace in more than 13 years.

Harvey caused about $76 billion to $87 billion in economic losses, according to Moody's Analytics, an economic consulting firm. That would make Harvey the second-worst U.S. natural disaster, after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Irma will likely end up having caused $58 billion to $83 billion in economic losses. Those estimates include damage to homes and businesses as well as lost business and economic output.


This story has been corrected to show that September's job losses figure was the first decline in nearly seven years.

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‘I’ll bite your nose off and spit it in your face,’ man tells cop during arrest

Published: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 10:12 PM

Martin Flemings

A 56-year-old man pinched a Dayton officer and threatened to bite him tonight during his arrest, according to a Dayton police report.

Officers on patrol reported finding Martin Eugene Flemings around 7:20 p.m. inside a garage that was boarded up by the city at 22 W. Hudson Ave.

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According to the report, Flemings, who was possibly intoxicated, became belligerent after he found out his lighter shaped like a handgun would be placed in the property room. He began yelling and told an officer: “I’ll bite your nose off and spit it in your face,” the report stated.

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Flemings then reached back and pinched the officer in the right thigh, according to the report.

Flemings was booked into the Montgomery County Jail on suspicion of menacing, resisting arrest and illegal entry into a nuisance premises. He also had a warrant for failing to appear on a drug possession charge, records show.

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New Chipotle CEO graduated from a Dayton-area college

Published: Thursday, February 15, 2018 @ 12:15 PM
Updated: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 10:11 PM

Chipotle Mexican Grill in Monroe, Ohio, GREG LYNCH / STAFF Customers visit the Chipotle Mexican Grill in Monroe during the lunch time rush, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015. Unconfirmed cases of E. Coli have been reported at Chipolte locations in Ohio and other states. GREG LYNCH / STAFF
Chipotle Mexican Grill in Monroe, Ohio, GREG LYNCH / STAFF Customers visit the Chipotle Mexican Grill in Monroe during the lunch time rush, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015. Unconfirmed cases of E. Coli have been reported at Chipolte locations in Ohio and other states. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

Chipotle Mexican Grill has hired a new chief executive officer and he has roots in southwest Ohio.

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Chipotle has named Taco Bell’s Brian Niccol as its next leader, replacing Steve Ells, who built the fast-casual food chain.

Brian Niccol, new Chipotle CEO.(Staff Writer)

Niccol is a 1996 graduate of Miami University, just an hour from Dayton.

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Niccol, 43, graduated from Miami’s college of engineering and computing, serves on the advisory council of Miami’s Farmer School of Business and is a member of the college’s Phi Delta Theta fraternity, according to the university. He started his career at Procter and Gamble in marketing.

Niccol replaced Ells on March 5 after Ells announced in November that he planned to step down.

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Niccol has been in charge of Taco Bell since 2015, according to reports. He is known as the person who brought the Doritos Locos Tacos and mobile ordering to Taco Bell.

Chipotle’s brand has suffered over the last few years as the company tries to recover from E.coli, norovirus and Salmonella outbreaks that got customers sick and shrunk burrito sales.

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Great Pacific Garbage Patch 16 times larger than estimates: 87,000 tons of plastic and growing

Published: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 9:37 PM

An example of the plastic trash found in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the ocean between California and Hawaii.
The Ocean Cleanup Foundation
An example of the plastic trash found in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the ocean between California and Hawaii.(The Ocean Cleanup Foundation)

The giant mass of floating plastic trash in the Pacific Ocean, known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, now measures almost 620,000 square miles and is as much as 16 times larger than previous estimates, according to a new study.

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The huge mass of soupy trash between California and Hawaii in what’s known as the Pacific gyre contains 87,000 tons of plastic, researchers reported in the study published Tuesday in the journal Nature Scientific Reports, and scientists said with the massive global plastic pollution continuing, it’s still growing.

Data between 1970 and 2015 shows the plastic levels in the garbage patch are increasing at a faster rate than in surrounding waters.

Microplastics and larger chunks of plastic, along with tons of abandoned or lost fishing nets, litter the ocean in an area known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.(The Ocean Cleanup Foundation)

The biggest chunk of garbage in the patch, 46 percent of it, is fishing nets, according to the research. Other types of commercial fishing gear, including eel traps, ropes and oyster spacers account for a majority of the rest of the trash. 

Oceanographer and lead researcher with the Ocean Cleanup Foundation Laurent Lebreton told National Geographic scientists wanted to study the bigger pieces of trash in the patch.

“I knew there would be a lot of fishing gear, but 46 percent was unexpectedly high,” Lebreton said. “Initially, we thought fishing gear would be more in the 20 percent range. That is the accepted number [for marine debris] globally - 20 percent from fishing sources and 80 percent from land.”

A map shows the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) floating in the ocean and the concentration levels of trash in the gyre.(The Ocean Cleanup Foundation)

The fishing nets that litter the world’s oceans entangle whales, turtles and seals, and the plastic in the seas kills or injures 100,000 marine animals every year, National Geographic reported.

Researchers said there are still many unknowns about the garbage patch, including the level of plastic pollution in deeper waters and on the sea floor, and that more study is needed,

The findings are part of a three-year mapping effort involving Ocean Cleanup, an international team of scientists, six universities and an aerial sensor company. 


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Dayton Arby’s sold: What does this mean for your beloved curly fries?

Published: Wednesday, February 14, 2018 @ 12:41 PM
Updated: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 9:40 PM

Local Arby’s stores have new ownership, will be remodeled starting this summer

All 29 Arby’s locations in the Dayton area have been sold, and the nearly 1,000 workers at those restaurants have a new corporate employer.

AES Restaurant Group LLC, an Arby’s franchisee based in Carmel, Indiana announced Feb. 14 that it has acquired 29 Miami Valley restaurants from GZK, Inc., headquartered in West Carrollton. GZK had operated Arby’s restaurants in the Dayton area for more than five decades. With the purchase, AES now operates 46 Arby’s restaurants across Indiana, Ohio and Georgia.

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A GZK spokeswoman referred questions to AES Restaurant Group President and CEO John Wade, who told this news outlet that the deal has been a long time in the making, and makes sense from a geographic standpoint — the Dayton market is only two hours away from AES Restaurant Group’s headquarters.

“We’ve always thought that the Dayton market was a prime Arby’s market, and we have pursued this for years,” Wade said. Working with GZK owner Neil Kaufman, Wade said, “We were finally able to put together a deal that was advantageous for all of us.”

Details of the transaction were not disclosed. All GZK employees have been hired by AES, including office support staff and members of the maintenance department, Wade said in a release.

“The same people who have been taking care of Dayton-area Arby’s customers for years will continue to do so,” Wade said. “We’ll be bringing some freshness to the restaurants, and will sharpen things up.”

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After merging the two companies and its operations, AES will launch a remodeling project this summer for Dayton-area restaurants. The renovated restaurants will feature design elements such as wood tones, white brick, subway tiles, stainless steel finishes, and upgraded lighting and landscaping that will deliver an upgraded guest experience, AES officials said in a release.

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GZK also had operated a dozen Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken locations until 2014, when it sold the franchise restaurants to Far Hills Development LLC.

Arby’s, founded in 1964, is the second-largest sandwich restaurant brand in the world with more than 3,400 restaurants in seven countries.

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