Over 400,000 jobless claim related to Katrina surge

The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits climbed above 400,000 last week, the government said Thursday, due to the effects of Hurricane Katrina -- but the figure was below economists' forecasts.

Initial jobless claims rose to 432,000 in the week ended Sept. 17 from an upwardly revised reading of 424,000 the week before, the Labor Department said. Analysts polled by Briefing.com anticipated 450,000 jobless claims, CNN reports.

Americans filing for unemployment for the first time only rose by 8,000 last week after a revised 97,000 spike in the previous week.

The Labor Department said jobless claims related to the storm that slammed into the Gulf Coast over three weeks ago totaled 103,000 last week and 91,000 the week before.

The four-week moving average of new claims, which economists prefer to use as a gauge of layoffs because it smooths weekly volatility, was 376,250 an increase of 29,000 from the previous week's revised average of 347,250, the Labor Department said.

U.S. Treasury debt prices and the dollar showed little reaction to the data, largely because economists view the claims numbers as an unreliable indicator of the job market given the Katrina-related distortions.

Economists had anticipated an even sharper jump on the back of the storm that killed more than 1,000 people and wreaked havoc on infrastructure, according to MSN Money.

Unadjusted for seasonal factors, jobless claims linked to Katrina totaled 103,000 last week and 91,000 the week before.

Economists suggested the hurricane has clouded the picture of a labor market that had been showing an improvement before the storm struck the U.S. Gulf Coast last month.

Private economists had expected claims would rise to 440,000 from the Labor Department's original reading of 398,000 in the September 10 week.

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