WASHINGTON — Last month’s harsh winter weather cut across the U.S. economy, closing factories, canceling flights and keeping shoppers home.
Employers, though, kept hiring. They added 175,000 jobs in February, the government said Friday, far more than in December and January.
So why didn’t the weather put job growth in a deep freeze?
Mainly because of how the government counts company payrolls. The Labor Department calculates jobs by asking companies how many people they employed during the pay period that includes the 12th day of the month.
If a company’s pay period is, say, every two weeks or twice a month, a staffer who worked just one day during that period would be counted as employed.
Take Junkluggers, a New York City junk removal company. Josh Cohen, the founder and CEO, says a snowstorm forced him to shut down for six full days in February. It cost his company an estimated $15,000 to $20,000 in lost revenue. Roughly 45 hourly workers went without pay.
But Junkluggers pays its employees twice a month. So anyone who logged any hours during that time would have been counted as employed.
Cohen thinks the severe weather will actually lead to increased business this spring as some customers call him for jobs that were delayed by the weather. Business typically rebounds solidly in spring after a tough winter, Cohen says. He plans to double his staff to about 120 by May.
Economists, too, expect most hiring disruptions to be made up in coming months, resulting in further job growth.
That’s the message from Patrice Rice, CEO of a recruiting firm based in Dunkirk, Md., who says the weather was a big headache last month. Her firm, with 30 offices nationwide, places executives, managers and chefs for restaurant and hotel chains such as Ruby Tuesday’s, Chipotle, Applebee’s and Marriott.
Snowstorms caused interviews to be postponed and delayed the completion of new restaurants, she says. That, in turn, delayed hiring at those sites. Overall, Rice thinks the number of people her company placed in jobs fell about 22 percent in February from its monthly average.
“You had somebody set up for an interview, and then the weather comes in, the interviews were canceled,” she says. “People don’t want to drive for days, because they’re not used to the snow in Dallas and Atlanta.”
Many Southern states were hit by much more severe winter weather than usual. About 700,000 customers lost power in the Southeast.
Still, Rice says the restaurant business is doing well, and she expects her business to recover strongly as job openings delayed by severe weather are filled.
And many companies, like Cleveland-based OnShift, plan their hiring over weeks and months, so aren’t much affected by weather. Mark Woodka, CEO of OnShift, has added 14 employees to his Cleveland-based software company this year, bringing its total staff to 74.
Woodka expects to add 11 more by May. The company’s software helps nursing homes, assisted living facilities and home health care firms manage and schedule their employees. They are hiring salespeople, software engineers and managers.
“We’ve been growing quickly, and our products are in demand,” he says.