Do natural disasters hurt or help the economy? Hurricane Irene, which briefly terrorized the East Coast last summer before fizzling, spurred a series of articles speculating on the potential stimulative impact of a hurricane on a depressed economy. Hurricane Isaac, currently battering the Gulf Coast, doesn't seem to have had the same impact on economists.
Disaster economics is a subject worthy of more study. For starters, natural disasters really do seem to reduce unemployment. Hurricane Katrina led to a temporary surge in joblessness before reducing the unemployment in the New Orleans metropolitan area well below the national unemployment rate. Of course, it also killed almost 2,000 people and devastated a major American city.