WASHINGTON – The number of people seeking unemployment benefits fell sharply to a seasonally adjusted 410,000 last week, though the figure was elevated for the second straight week by Superstorm Sandy.
The Labor Department says applications dropped 41,000 from the previous week, when the storm drove applications to their highest level in 18 months. The four week average, a less volatile measure, rose 9,500 to 396,250.
Sandy could distort the data for another week, department officials say. The storm caused nearly 44,000 people in New York and 31,000 in New Jersey to seek unemployment aid two weeks ago, the latest state data available.
Before the storm, applications fluctuated between 360,000 and 390,000 for most of this year. At the same time, the unemployment rate fell from 8.3 percent to 7.9 percent.