New jobless claims fall sharply

WASHINGTON — New jobless claims dropped sharply last week to a still-high 410,000 as the effect of Superstorm Sandy probably eased.

The figure for the week ending Nov. 17 was down 41,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 451,000. But the 410,000 new claims, which was in line with analyst expectations, still were well above the four-week average of 396,250.

The high levels of the past two weeks reversed a yearlong downward trend as the job market improved.

Until the week ending Nov. 10, initial jobless claims hadn't topped 400,000 since mid-October 2011. New claims hit a 41/2-year low of 342,000 in early October.

Superstorm Sandy, which hit the Northeast hard in late October, was the culprit in the recent surge. And its true impact became clearer Friday in state-level figures, which lag a week from the broader national numbers.

For the week ending Nov. 10, the Labor Department said Sandy caused new claims to jump by 43,956 in New York, 31,094 in New Jersey, 7,037 in Pennsylvania and 1,808 in Connecticut.

A wide swath of industries were hurt by the storm. In New York, the new claims were primarily in the construction, food service and transportation sectors, the Labor Department said. In New Jersey, job losses hit those sectors, and several others, including hotels, health care and retail.

"Hurricane Sandy is making it hard to see the underlying trend in the labor market," said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi in New York.

Although there are signs the economy is doing better, Rupkey expects Sandy to take a toll on job creation in November. He said the storm could lead to a weak report — with little or no new job creation — and could affect the jobs market for the next couple of months.

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