That's the same hit -- 0.2 percentage points -- that rival consulting firm IHS Global Insight thinks the weather will impose on first-quarter GDP growth. Add up the temporary factors, and the economy's underlying 3% annual growth rate is being slowed to about 2% early this year, Zandi said.
But economists are sanguine the stall is only temporary.
At the Credit Union National Association, chief economist Bill Hampel said the fundamental backlog of demand for cars that propelled sales to an annual rate of more than 16 million in late 2013 (before dipping to a little more than 15 million early this year) isn't going anywhere. If anything, it's growing, because the slower sales of the last two months will probably show up in spring, he said.
"I wouldn't be at all surprised if annual rates hit 16 and a half [million] in the second quarter of this year,'' Hampel said.
The second-quarter bounceback will likely show up in jobs, too, Zandi said.
"We'll see 200,000 a month as we see snapback,'' he said. "April, May and June will look measurably better.''
In the meantime, Friday looks like the economic equivalent of this week's arctic blast in the northeastern U.S. The weather makes the short-term performance of the job market even harder to predict. Hampel said the weather made the data so unreliable he did not return some of the surveys he received in his forecast of February jobs growth.
"Discretion was just the better part of valor,'' he said. "There's so much going on.''
This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.