The coverage of Puerto Rico is turning into a story about the impact on businesses and jobs. Without power, water and lines of communication, apparently this is what the media know how to cover. (More)
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CNN has a story under “Politics” on How a Hurricane Can Wipe out a Jobs Report.
To understand how a storm can wipe out the topline of a jobs report, you need to understand how the Bureau of Labor Statistics actually, you know, works.
National jobs growth numbers come from the Department of Labor’s “payroll” or “establishment” survey, which estimates the number of wage and salary jobs, excluding agriculture jobs. About 140,000 business and agencies are included in the sample. All the dirty details are here.
But here’s the catch: All the counting happens during the week of the 12th of the month. That means, in the words of the BLS website, “Employees who are not paid for the pay period that includes the 12th of the month are not counted as employed.”
The point is that hurricanes – and even what day of the month they make landfall – can make a big difference that final jobs number.
They also note that food service workers who cannot work (the business is closed) do not get paid. Those living paycheck to paycheck will be hit the hardest.
MPR has a headline that reads Maria could cost Medtronic $250 million. After we learn that the four manufacturing sites are slowly ramping back up and that the losses to sales and earnings will be about $250 million we also learn that: “Medtronic said most of its more than 5,000 direct and contract employees on the island are OK,” and “The Medtronic Foundation has directed $1 million toward disaster relief and is matching employee contributions to authorized agencies.”
USA Today reports that Puerto Rico’s farmers face near total loss from Hurricane Maria
Carlos Flores Ortega, Puerto Rico’s secretary of agriculture, said the area around Roig’s farm, near the southern port city of Ponce, is known for plantains, bananas, papayas, coffee and citrus crops.
“All of that has been wiped out,” Flores Ortega said. “Farmers are used to loss, rain, heavy rains and flooding. But in this occasion, we had the worst natural disaster in 100 years on the island.”
Flores Ortega estimated the island lost 80% of its crops. The poultry sector lost 90% of its production and more than 2 million of its 2.6 million birds, along with numerous chicken coops and processing equipment.
Tanzina Vega has an opinion piece up at CNN that is worth reading. She was born on the island, has been a reporter for the New York Times and is a Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University.
I fear that as newer natural and manmade disasters keep happening that we will all just move on. I don’t want the people of Puerto Rico abandoned or forgotten. They need us all to speak to our elected officials on their behalf.
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