Jobless claims drop to pre-Sandy levels

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People seeking jobs wait in line to speak to over 60 employers at an employment fair May 3, 2012 in the Queens borough of New York. Extended unemployment benefits for those seeking work are expected to end sooner in more states.

Credit:

STAN HONDA

The number of people claiming unemployment benefits dropped for the third straight week last week as the effects of superstorm Sandy stabilize.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 25,000 to a seasonally adjusted 370,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday.

According to Reuters, the drop brought the figures back to their pre-storm range of 360,000-370,000. It's a sign that several weeks of spikes in jobless claims were likely due to people being out of work due to damage from late October's superstorm, which devastated areas across New York and New Jersey.

“Sandy pushed up claims temporarily, and with this number we are pretty much back to where we were before the hurricane,” Guy Berger, an economist at RBS Securities Inc. told Bloomberg. “Layoffs are lingering at the same pace. Hiring remains relatively anemic.”

In the region hardest hit by the storm, claims in New Jersey were down by almost 24,000 two weeks ago and by 6,682 in New York, reports Bloomberg. The state data is reported with a one-week lag.

Applications for unemployment jumped to 451,000 in the week ended Nov. 10, after Sandy hit the Northeast, reports CBS News. People can claim unemployment benefits if they aren't paid because their workplaces are forced to close. 

A clearer picture of the health of the economy will come out of Friday employment data for the November jobs report is released.

According to Reuters, economists estimate that Sandy could subtract between 25,000 and 75,000 jobs from November's nonfarm payrolls.

Friday's jobs report is expected to show payrolls increased only 93,000 last month after advancing 171,000 job in October. The unemployment rate will likely hold steady at 7.9 percent.