WASHINGTON -- Superstorm Sandy drove the number of people seeking unemployment benefits up to a seasonally adjusted 439,000 last week, the highest level in 18 months.
The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly applications increased by 78,000 mostly because a large number of applications were filed in states damaged by the storm. People can claim unemployment benefits if their workplaces close and they don't get paid.
The storm has affected the claims data for the past two weeks and may distort reports for another two weeks, the department has said.
Sal Guatieri, an economist at BMO Capital Markets, said a similar jump in applications occurred after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
"We should see a full retracement of this increase in coming weeks," he said. Applications were declining before the storm, he added, "though levels are consistent with moderate, rather than strong, job growth."
The four-week average of applications, a less volatile number, increased to 383,750.
Here in Ohio:
Ohio's unemployment rate was 6.9 percent in October, down from 7.1 percent in September, according to data released this morning by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS). Ohio's nonfarm wage and salary employment increased 13,900 over the month from the revised 5,178,000 in September to 5,191,900 in October.
The number of workers unemployed in Ohio in October was 396,000, down from 406,000 in September. The number of unemployed has decreased by 88,000 in the past 12 months from 484,000. The October unemployment rate for Ohio was down from 8.3 percent in October 2011.