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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Jobless claims drop sharply

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The number of new people signing up for jobless benefits plunged last week, partly reflecting a tapering off of filings related to Hurricane Charley.

For the week ending Sept. 4, new applications for unemployment insurance dropped by a seasonally adjusted 44,000 from the previous week to 319,000, the lowest level since July 3, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

The decline of 44,000 was the largest decrease since the week ending Dec. 8, 2001.

A department analyst said that part of the decline came from fewer claims being filed due to the hurricane, which ripped through Florida. Hurricane-related claims had contributed to a rise in unemployment benefit filings in the prior two weeks.

The hurricane hit Florida on Aug. 13. New claims had climbed in the weeks after the storm as people were able to get out to employment offices to file applications for benefits.

The latest snapshot of the layoffs climate was better than analysts were expecting. They were forecasting a smaller drop of around 17,000 for last week.

“We’re getting there. When you look at the underlying trend, the jobs picture is improving,” said Richard Yamarone, economist at Argus Research Corp.

Given the recent volatility in jobless claims because of the storm, economists were putting more stock in the more stable, four-week moving average of claims, which smooths out week-to-week fluctuations. That barometer showed claims fell by 3,750 last week to 339,250, the lowest level since Aug. 21.

Although the labor market recovery has been uneven, the direction of claims when compared with a year ago has clearly shown improvement.

For the same week last year, the number of new people signing up for unemployment benefits stood at 413,000, versus the 319,000 in Thursday’s report. The four-week moving average showed claims at 404,000 a year ago, compared with 339,250.