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

States, Territories

The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits rose to 2.6 percent in the week ended Nov. 3 from 2.5 percent. Thirty-four states and territories reported an increase in claims, while 19 reported a decrease.

Initial jobless claims reflect weekly firings and tend to fall as job growth -- measured by the monthly non-farm payrolls report -- accelerates.

The payroll report released Nov. 2 wasn’t affected by Sandy. Businesses in the U.S. hired 184,000 workers in October, the most since February, indicating they see enough demand to expand even in the face of the tax increases and spending cuts slated for January unless Congress acts.

Still, changes to headcount show the labor market hasn’t been able to gain traction in 2012. Gains in total payrolls so far this year have averaged 157,000 a month, little changed from the 153,000 average for 2011.

A separate survey of households showed the jobless rate rose to 7.9 percent from 7.8 percent in September as 578,000 people joined the workforce is search of a job, swamping the 410,000 gain in employment.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and his policy- making colleagues last month had a detailed discussion about whether the central bank should link its policy of holding the main interest rate at zero to numerical measurements of unemployment and inflation, an approach that participants “generally favored” over the current approach of specifying a calendar date through which rates will remain low, minutes of their October meeting released yesterday showed.

Bloomberg News

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