Hurricane Job Losses Rise to 438,000

The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless aid dipped by 2,000 last week, defying Wall Street (search) expectations for a larger fall, as the aftermath of Gulf Coast hurricanes continued to weigh on the U.S. job market, the government said on Thursday.

First-time claims for state unemployment insurance benefits fell to a seasonally adjusted 389,000 in the week ended Oct. 8 from a slightly revised 391,000 the prior week, the Labor Department (search) said.

Economists had expected initial claims to fall to 360,000 from the original Oct. 1 week reading of 390,000, a total swollen by hurricane-related claims.

A Labor Department analyst said some 75,000 first-time claims in the Oct. 8 week — unadjusted for seasonal factors — were linked to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita (search), bringing the cumulative impact of the storms to about 438,000 claims since early September.

A four-week moving average of claims, which quells weekly volatility to provide a better sense of the pace of U.S. layoffs, fell to 395,750 in the latest period from 404,500 the Oct. 1 week.

White House economic adviser Ben Bernanke said this week he was confident jobs in the hurricane-hit region would either return or be replaced by new work as the rebuilding progresses.

A third job-market barometer, the number of unemployed who continued to claim benefits after an initial week of aid, fell 5,000 to 2.87 million in the week ended Oct. 1, the latest period for which figures are available.