U.S. jobless claims jumped last week after Sandy struck

More Americans than forecast submitted claims for unemployment insurance last week as superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc on the job market.

Applications for jobless benefits surged by 78,000 to 439,000 in the week ended Nov. 10, the most since April 2011, the Labor Department said today in Washington. Several states said the increase was due to the storm that hit the Northeastern part of the U.S. in late October, a Labor Department spokesman said as the data were released to the press.

The extent of the damage means it may take weeks for the underlying trend in firings to again become clear. Before the storm, the labor market was gaining momentum even as year-end domestic fiscal policy uncertainties raised concern among businesses.

“At least a few state labor offices were shut in the prior week so it’s almost as if you have two weeks of claims in one,” said Ryan Wang, an economist at HSBC Securities USA Inc. in New York. “You have a double whammy this week, where people were filing claims they were unable to previously and individuals unable to work for the storm were filing additional claims.”

Stock-index futures dropped after the report, erasing earlier gains. The contract on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index maturing in December fell 0.1 percent to 1,351.80 at 8:59 a.m. in New York.

Sandy struck the Northeast region, including New York and New Jersey, as it came ashore Oct. 29, and those who lost their jobs because the storm shuttered businesses may keep filing claims in coming weeks.

Sandy’s Impact

The Labor Department spokesman did not name the affected states, citing agency policy not to single out any one area. Today’s report showed a loss of electricity prevented New York offices from taking claims two weeks ago.

In addition, since Monday was a government holiday, three states and territories -- Hawaii, Oregon and Puerto Rico -- didn’t report claims data, causing the Labor Department to estimate their totals, the spokesman said. Two others, California and Virginia, provided their own estimates.

Claims were projected to rise to 375,000 from the prior week, according to the median estimate of 49 economists surveyed by Bloomberg. Projections ranged from 340,000 to 475,000. The prior week’s reading was revised up to 361,000 from an originally reported 355,000.

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