The United States lost 33,000 jobs in September as the economy took a hit from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. It was the first monthly decline in jobs in seven years.
The jobless rate dropped to 4.2%, the lowest since 2001.
Economists had been expecting an increase of 90,000 jobs, even after accounting for the hurricanes. Economists expect the decline to be short-lived as employers closed by the storm in Houston and Florida are able to reopen.
The reported drop in jobs could even disappear in future revisions of the estimate as the Labor Department is able to collect information from businesses that it was unable to contact due to the storm.
The biggest hit to jobs came from a drop of 105,000 at restaurants and bars. The Labor Department said that decline is very likely related to the storms. The sector had been adding about 24,000 jobs a month before the storm.
The drop in the unemployment rate was a surprise to economists and was not related to the hurricane. Instead it came from a jump in the number of workers telling the Labor Department they had found work, and a drop in those who were without a job. The unemployment rate is now considered close to what economists consider to be full employment.