WASHINGTON: New US claims for jobless benefits jumped in late September as the aftermath of hurricanes Harvey and Irma continued to disrupt economic hubs in Texas and Florida, official figures showed Thursday.
Despite the rise, a record streak of low levels of new claims remained unbroken, pointing to the resilience of labor markets amid strong job creation and low unemployment.
For the week ending September 23, new claims for unemployment insurance rose 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 272,000, which was 3,000 fewer than analysts had expected, according to the Labor Department.
The less volatile four-week average rose 9,000 to 277,750, its highest level in 19 months.
Officials said results in Texas, Florida, Georgia, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands continued to be affected by the back-to-back hurricanes, which slammed into the US over a two-week period beginning in late August.
But the effects of Hurricane Maria, which made landfall on the island territory of Puerto Rico on September 20, is not yet reflected in the data.
The Labor Department’s Office of Unemployment Insurance has been unable to make contact with officials in Puerto Rico for two weeks, meaning Thursday’s result, a seven percent drop to 2,248 claims, was an estimate.
Claims in Florida, not seasonally adjusted, spiked by 8,160 to 18,212 in the wake of Irma, which made landfall there earlier this month. Following Harvey, claims remained elevated in Texas, but fell nearly 30 percent to 20,169.
Though they are volatile, the level of jobless claims can be used to gauge the prevalence of layoffs and the health of labor markets.
Claims have remained below 300,000 for two and a half years, the longest such stretch since 1970.
Economists say that labor is scarce among falling unemployment, meaning companies are reluctant to lay off workers who may be difficult to replace.