Those losses reflect the enormous area affected by the polar vortex. The Arctic air mass moved across the Central Plains, Midwest, Southeast and Northeast, as well as eastern Canada, with more than 200 million people forced to cope with the frigid temperatures.
"Colder-than-normal weather tends to be a drag on economic activity, in particular in weather-sensitive areas such as construction," said Goldman Sachs (GS) in a research note.
Despite the adverse impact on households and businesses, the setback is a drop in the bucket for the $17 trillion U.S. economy. As a result, experts predict the damage will be short-lived.
Bigger weather events, such as Superstorm Sandy in 2012, can have two to three times the economic impact of the recent cold snap because their effects were longer lasting, according to Nariman Behravesh, IHS Global Insight. He estimates that the cold weather shaved between 0.1 percent to 0.2 percent off economic growth in the first three months of the year, a dip that can easily be made up in later quarters.
Whatever impact the deep freeze had on the economy, it won't show up in the U.S. Labor Department's jobs report for December, due out Friday. That because the surveys on which the monthly report is based were completed prior to the cold front moving in.
Goldman Sachs estimates that the cold weather could cause payroll gains last month to come in below forecasts. Any effects on the labor market also could show in later economic releases.