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Bad weather can bring a host of financial challenges

It may be true that places like Fort Lauderdale and Miami, Florida, are exempt from dealing with many of the harsh winter conditions that strike other areas of the country. After all, few Floridians are forced to contend with issues like heavy snow and drastically low temperatures. Even so, the state is familiar with the harsh effects weather can have on the economy and individual livelihoods. Too many people understand that Chapter 7 bankruptcy may only be one major storm away. That’s why it’s interesting to note how winter factored into job market figures for the end of 2013.

One way that economists and other experts analyze the state of the national employment market is to look at the labor-force participation rate. The participation rate estimates the number of working-age individuals around the country that have work or are actively seeking employment. At the end of 2013, the national participation rate was the lowest it has been in over 30 years, bottoming out at around 62 percent. Part of the decline may be attributed to the high number of individuals across the country reaching the age of retirement, but weather also seems to be playing a role in keeping people out of the workplace.

The construction industry has been hit by the cold season, as employment rates in that sector declined in December. Furthermore, poor weather conditions are responsible for over 270,000 cases of unemployment that month, which is a drastic increase from weather-related joblessness reported the same time last year.

While the Arctic freeze that swept through most of the country early in 2014 does not factor into these employment numbers, there are concerns that employment gains are still struggling.

Source: barrons.com, “A Disconcerting Jobs Report,” Gene Epstein, Jan. 11, 2014

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