Today's unemployment claims figures are out and they're huge: 439,000—that's the highest number in a year and a half, and close to an 80,000 jump from the previous week. And if you ask anyone, it's because of the natural disaster that hit the East Coast two weeks ago. Just look:
To put that 439,000 in some kind of perspective, it helps remembering that nearly a month ago on October 11, during the tail end of the election, the unemployment claims were the lowest they had been in four years at 339,000—this raised Republican eyebrows (jobless claims going down was a good thing for Obama). And just how that October 11 figure was great news for economic optimists, this 439,000 is sort of a downer for anyone who thinks the U.S. economy is getting better. So, there's that. But what's with the giant swing?
Well, the initial reactions seem to be pinning the huge increase on Hurricane Sandy. It's two-fold according to the Department of Labor, which saw big changes in the states where Sandy did damage. New Jersey saw an increase of 5,675 claims and Connecticut saw 1,783 more which both states attributed to Hurricane Sandy. But Sandy isn't just putting people out of jobs, she can also lower claims and muck the numbers in the opposite direction in a way we don't want. New York experienced a drop of 2,241 claims since Sandy's power outages and transportation wreckage prevented some claims from being filed. So yes, New York could show a big boost in claims next week thanks to the storm. "It may take three to four weeks to see the full impact, the spokesman said, which indicates claims may jump back in coming weeks as more storm-related applications begin to be processed," reported The Washington Post's Alex Kowalski on November 8. This is week one of those numbers.