A police officer moves a car that is out of gas, trying to position it so it can fill up, at a gas station in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Friday, Nov. 2, 2012. In parts of New York and New Jersey, drivers face another day of lining up for hours at gas stations struggling to stay supplied. Superstorm Sandy damaged ports that accept fuel tankers and flooded underground equipment that sends fuel through pipelines. Without power, fuel terminals can't pump gasoline onto tanker trucks, and gas stations can't pump fuel into customers' cars.

Seth Wenig, Associated Press - Ap

Sandy's impact will also be felt in the national data

  • Article by: NEIL IRWIN
  • Washington Post
  • November 3, 2012 - 4:44 PM

The devastation of superstorm Sandy is likely to create big distortions -- though not lasting effects -- in a wide range of economic measures.

If past major storms and forecasts by economists are a guide, look for industrial production to take a dip in October as factories from the Carolinas to New England suspended activity and for housing starts to slow as builders postponed new construction.

Retail sales are likely to benefit in November and December, when people buy the supplies they need to rebuild. There could be downward pressure on November jobs numbers should some of the employers affected, such as Atlantic City casinos, be unable to get back to full speed quickly.

Economic activity will be lower in the next couple of weeks because many businesses across the Northeast are shut down. Some will take days to reopen. But during the next couple of quarters, the destruction will lead to a slight and almost perverse boost in overall economic activity, as efforts to clear damage and rebuild houses and businesses adds to the gross domestic product.

The storm depleted the nation's "capital stock" -- houses, stores, and bridges and other infrastructure were destroyed. The country is, in effect, poorer by whatever amount the damage comes to. But the urgent need to rebuild will create jobs and spur economic activity, with the bill paid by insurers and governments.

When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in 2005, it created an effect on national economic indicators that was significant but short-lived. For example, at the time, the U.S. economy was adding nearly 200,000 jobs a month, but that number fell to 66,000 in September 2005 and 80,000 in October.

The figure rebounded that November: 334,000 positions were added.

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