New jobless claims fall sharply

WASHINGTON – New jobless claims last week fell much more sharply than expected, a reassuring sign that the damaging effects from Hurricane Sandy to the labor market have largely passed.

The Labor Department said Thursday that 370,000 people filed initial claims for unemployment insurance in the week ended Saturday, down from a revised 395,000 in the prior week. The latest claims number was just about the weekly average for the 10 weeks prior to the storms.

The Labor Department on Friday will issue its jobs report for November, and that is expected to reflect the disruption to commerce and temporary loss of work after the storm knocked out power and caused severe damage in the Northeast, particularly New York and New Jersey.

The economy added 171,000 new jobs in October, according to the Labor Department, but analysts are forecasting a number closer to 100,000 for November because of Hurricane Sandy. A report earlier this week by payroll processor Automatic Data Processing Inc. estimated that Hurricane Sandy shaved 86,000 private-sector jobs in November, likely resulting in growth of 118,000 payrolls at private employers for the month.

New jobless claims, which are an indicator of layoffs and labor market trends, had spiked to 451,000 in the first full week of November in the wake of the storms. The latest tally marked the third straight weekly decline and a near-complete reversal of the 90,000 jump in the week after the storms.

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