The number of Americans applying for new unemployment benefits rose last week, at least partially reflecting job loss due to hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
Initial jobless claims, which reflect nationwide layoffs, rose by 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 272,000 in the week ended Sept. 23, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expected 275,000 new claims.
The storms affected the number of claims filed in Florida, Georgia, Puerto Rico, Texas and the Virgin Island, the department said. Claims for Puerto Rico were estimated by officials in Washington because government offices on the island were closed.
The four-week moving average of claims, which smoothes out often volatile weekly data, rose by 9,000 to 277,750, the highest level since February 2016. Evacuations and power outages may mean storm-related jobless claims are spread out over several weeks.
Still, overall jobless claims remain historically low. Weekly claims have held below 300,000 each week since March 2015, the longest such streak since the early 1970s.
The number of continuing unemployment benefit claims–those drawn by workers for more than a week–decreased by 45,000 to 1,934,000 in the week ended Sept. 16. Continuing claims are reported with a one-week lag.
Prior to the storms, the U.S. labor market appeared extremely healthy. The unemployment rate in August was near a 16-year low and job creation has been steady this year.
Source: Dow Jones