Jobless claims surge after Hurricane Harvey

Jobless claims surge after Hurricane Harvey

Following last Friday's disappointing monthly jobs report, the Labor Department released a report on Thursday showing a sharp increase in first-time claims for USA unemployment benefits in the week ended September 2nd.

The increase in new claims was the largest since November 2012 in the wake of hurricane Sandy. Economists polled by MarketWatch had forecast claims to total 242,000. Hurricane Harvey had impacted a Labor Department official noted last week's data.

Jobless claims could remain elevated for weeks in the aftermath of Harvey, especially if Hurricane Irma hits the East Coast hard.

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The Labor Department said the less volatile four-week moving average of claims climbed to 250,250, an increase of 13,500 from the previous week's unrevised average of 236,750.

Between the two storms, he said, jobless claims could rise by more than 300,000 and "there's a decent chance of an outright decline in payrolls in September". "There is also the possibility of additional job losses tied to Hurricane Irma, which may hit Florida over the next few days".

Continuing claims were very low going into the hurricane, down 5,000 in lagging data for the August 26 week to 1.940 million.

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Damage estimates from Harvey, which made landfall on August 26, range from around $50 billion to well over $100 billion, making it among the costliest-ever USA storms. Even with the latest upswing, jobless claims have remained below 300,000 for 131 straight weeks, the longest such streak since 1970 - when the US population and workforce were far smaller than they are today.

The report also said the job growth in June and July was downwardly revised to 210,000 jobs and 189,000 jobs, respectively, reflecting a net downward revision of 41,000 jobs.

The advance seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 1.4 percent as of August 26 - unchanged from the previous week.

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Hiring in August slowed to 156,000 jobs but the pace of growth is still enough to lower the unemployment rate, which was 4.4 percent last month.