Job applicants fill out applications during a HIREvent job fair in Concord,… (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg )
WASHINGTON -- Initial jobless claims surged last week to a their highest level in more than a year and a half, probably in part because of the effects of Superstorm Sandy.
The number of new people filing for unemployment benefits jumped to 439,000 in the week ending Saturday, up from the previous week's revised figure of 361,000, the Labor Department said Thursday.
It was the first time in more than a year that the number of initial claims topped 400,000, and marked the highest level since April 2011. Economists say that claims below 400,000 indicate job growth.
Last week's increase exceeded analysts' expectations. The less-volatile four-week average increased 11,750 to 383,750.
Superstorm Sandy probably was part of the reason for the large increase. The Labor Department said hard-hit New Jersey reported an increase of 5,675 jobless claims in the week ending Nov. 3 because of Sandy.
There is a two-week lag in the release of state-specific data, so Sandy probably continued to have an impact in New Jersey, as well as New York and other states last week.
New York, which also was battered by the storm, reported a drop of 2,241 claims in the week ending Nov. 3, partly because power outages prevented the state from processing some claims, the Labor Department said. It's likely there was a big jump in New York last week as power was restored and people were able to file claims.
There also have been job losses recently unconnected to Sandy that could reflect the growing concerns by companies about the large tax increases and government spending cuts coming next year in what is known as the fiscal cliff.
Pennsylvania and Ohio reported big jumps in initial jobless claims for the week of Nov. 3. There was an increase of 7,766 claims in Pennsylvania attributed to layoffs in the construction, transportation and manufacturing sectors. And Ohio reported an increase of 6,450 initial jobless claims from layoffs in the automobile and manufacturing industries.
US Initial Claims for Unemployment Insurance data by YCharts
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