Superstorm Sandy drove the number of people in the US seeking unemployment benefits up to a seasonally adjusted 4,39,000 last week, the highest level in 18 months.

The Labour department says applications increased by 78,000 because a large number of applications were filed in East Coast states damaged by the storm. People can claim unemployment benefits if their workplaces close and they don’t get paid.

The department has said the storm may distort claims for another two weeks.

The four-week average of applications, a less volatile number, increased to 3,83,750.

Before the storm, applications fluctuated between 3,60,000 and 3,90,000 this year.

At the same time, employers added an average of nearly 1,57,000 jobs a month. That’s barely enough to lower the unemployment rate, which was 7.9 per cent in October.

(This article was published on November 15, 2012)
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