NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — The number of people filing for first time unemployment benefits soared 78,000 last week to the highest level in more than a year and a-half, as the effects of Hurricane Sandy the previous week were reflected in government data.
The Labor Department reported Thursday that 439,000 filed for first-time help last week, the highest number of people filing initial jobless claims since April 2011. Those filing for help the previous week was also revised up by 6,000 to 361,000.
The four-week average of those filing for help for the first time reached 383,750, up 11,750 from the previous week. That less volatile reading is watched by economists because it is not as subject to short-term spikes and drops.
The Labor Department did not break out the specific impact of the storm on the report. Hurricane Sandy hit the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut area on Oct. 29, causing widespread and prolonged power outages that resulted in a delay in those filing for first-time unemployment benefits the previous week. It also caused temporary layoffs for others as their employers were forced to close.
While many workers, especially salaried staff, were kept on payrolls with their employer was shut for lack of power, there were undoubtedly many hourly and contract workers who weren’t being paid while they were out of work. If they were off long enough, they could file for unemployment benefits, even if it’s merely a temporarily layoff.
The national unemployment rate was 7.9% in October, as 12.3 million people were counted as officially unemployed. However, not all of those people receive benefits.
As of the latest week available, 3.3 million people filed claims for their second week or more of jobless benefits. That’s down almost 300.000 from a year ago.
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