The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times both blame the weather for anemic job-creation numbers. "The U.S. economy added few jobs in January as stormy weather likely kept people out of work," is the way the Journal article begins. "Weather hurt U.S. Job Growth in January," is the headline over the New York Times article.
This use of the weather as an all-purpose explanation for economic data strikes me as less than entirely persuasive. Job growth has been weak for the past two years, and it hasn't been snowing continuously over that period. There are other factors that may have impeded job creation — the federal minimum wage increased to $7.25 an hour effective July 24, 2009, and last year Congress passed, and the president signed, a health-care law that has businesses concerned about the costs of providing health insurance for employees. There are concerns about inflation and the value of the dollar that may cause business owners to hesitate before hiring. The president seems to be relying for his job creation policy on Jeffrey Immelt, who is less than a confidence-inspiring figure.
The same economists now blaming the weather for worse than "expected" job creation are the ones whose expectations the job-creation numbers failed to beat. Did the snow somehow escape the notice of the economists when they were formulating their expectations?
In places where there has been a lot of snow, it may have helped some businesses and created some jobs. Here in New York, car services are busier because people don't want to move their own cars in the snow and during some storms the city's bus service has been canceled or unreliable. The city has hired extra plows and crews of laborers to shovel snow. Ski areas have more customers than they would if there were no natural snow. And construction workers are being called in to fix houses that have decks or roofs that have collapsed because of all the snow.
The convenient thing about blaming the snow for the lack of job creation is that the politicians in Washington can then escape responsibility for it. It's not their fault it snowed, after all.