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.