A woman searches through clothing donated to Hurricane Sandy victims in the Staten Island borough of New York. Picture: REUTERS
A woman searches through clothing donated to Hurricane Sandy victims in the Staten Island borough of New York. Picture: REUTERS

WASHINGTON — The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits fell last week but remained elevated due to superstorm Sandy, a sign the storm is proving to be a substantial disruption to the labour market.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 41,000 to a seasonally adjusted 410,000, the Labour Department said on Wednesday, smack in line with the median forecast in a Reuters poll.

The drop in claims only partially unwinds the 90,000-claim increase registered the prior week. The Labor Department revised upward its estimate for new claims in the week ending November 10 to 451,000.

An analyst from the department said several states were still reporting an increase in claims due to Sandy, a mammoth storm that slammed into the East Coast on October 29.

The storm left millions of homes and businesses without electricity, shut down public transportation and led many factories in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast to curtail production. Retail sales fell as Sandy slammed the brakes on automobile purchases last month.

However, the economic impact of the storm is likely to be temporary.

The four-week moving average for jobless claims, which smoothes out volatility, rose 9,500 to 396,250. Economists generally think a reading below 400,000 points to an increase in employment.

Continuing claims for jobless benefits dropped 30,000 in the week ended November 10 to a seasonally adjusted 3.337-million, the Labour Department said.

Reuters