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October 25, 2019 12:00 PM, EDT

GM Strike May Shave Tens of Thousands From October Payrolls

GM picket line Anthony Lanzilote/Bloomberg News

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The October jobs report is poised to take a hit from the 46,000 striking General Motors Co. employees.

The largest walkout since 2003 brought the total number of workers on strike to 47,700, according to data released Oct. 25 by the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That’s another wrinkle for economists working to determine just how much payroll gains have been slowing. The Nov. 1 jobs report may show employers added just 90,000 jobs in October, the fewest since May, according to forecasters surveyed by Bloomberg. In past employment reports, BLS has mentioned strike impacts to explain large payroll declines in specific industries.

Payroll data and the monthly strike report are both conducted during the same period, but that doesn’t mean each striking worker equals one job subtracted from total payrolls, BLS economist Shane Haley said in a phone interview Oct. 25. For example, the number may differ if striking GM workers are working a second job, he said.

The impact could be even larger than 46,000 due to rippling effects across the company’s supply chain. Bank of America economists, who released their projection shortly before the data for the strike report was available, estimate total nonfarm payrolls increased just 25,000 in October.

The strike may end this weekend with workers returning to their jobs early next week. More than 28,000 of GM’s 46,000 striking workers have voted, and they are 57% in favor so far, indicating ratification of the contract has momentum.

With assistance from David Welch.

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