U.S. jobless claims decline as hurricane impact ebbs in South

FILING FOR UNEMPLOYMENT benefits declined last week as the areas afffected by hurricanes on the continental U.S. began to recover. /BLOOMBERG FILE PHOTO/TY WRIGHT
FILING FOR UNEMPLOYMENT benefits declined last week as the areas afffected by hurricanes on the continental U.S. began to recover. /BLOOMBERG FILE PHOTO/TY WRIGHT

NEW YORK – United States filings for unemployment benefits fell last week as the impact of hurricanes Harvey and Irma faded in several states, Labor Department figures showed Thursday.

Highlights of jobless claims (Week ended Sept. 30)

  • Initial claims fell by 12,000 to 260,000 (est. 265,000)
  • Continuing claims increased by 2,000 to 1.94 million in week ended Sept. 23 (data reported with one-week lag)
  • Four-week average of initial claims, a less-volatile measure than the weekly figure, fell to 268,250 from 277,750 in prior week

Key takeaways

Applications for unemployment insurance fell by a combined 9,000 in Florida, Georgia and Texas last week before seasonal adjustments, as those states recover from the storms that struck in late August and early September. Claims for Puerto Rico were estimated again, as the island copes with severe damage and disruptions from Hurricane Maria.

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It could take time for the full impact from the storms to be fully visible in data, as some offices could have been unable to process claims and those who were displaced by the weather take longer to file. At the same time, the volatility is expected to dissipate as business returns to normal in areas and workers come back. Before the storms, claims were hovering near the lowest level in more than four decades.

The impact from Harvey and Irma probably slowed hiring last month, with economists projecting 80,000 payroll gains – about half of August’s gain. The Labor Department releases those monthly figures for September on Friday.

Other Details

  • Prior week’s initial claims unrevised at 272,000 Unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits unchanged at 1.4 percent
  • Unadjusted claims from the Virgin Islands surged to 1,039 from 68 in the aftermath of Irma, Maria

Patricia Laya is a reporter for Bloomberg News.

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