Dec. 6, 2012 at 8:52 AM ET
The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits dropped much more than expected in the latest week, as the impact of Superstorm Sandy abated.
The Labor Department reported Thursday that new jobless claims fell 25,000 to a seasonally-adjusted 370,000. Economists had expected claims to decline to around 380,000. The prior week's data was revised upward to 395,000, which is 2,000 more than initially estimated.
The drop in claims in the latest week brings them down to the 360,000-370,000 pre-Sandy range. The four-week moving average, considered a more accurate gauge of labor market trends, rose 2,250 to 408,000, which still reflected the impact of the storm.
A Labor Department official said there was nothing unusual in the state-level data, but noted claims tend to post their largest percentage increase in the last week of November, catching up from the Thanksgiving holiday.
In addition, seasonal layoffs in sectors like construction, start picking up this time of the year and remain elevated until early January. This will make claims a less useful gauge of labor market conditions in the weeks ahead.
The claims report has no bearing on Friday's employment data. Economists estimate the monster storm, which slammed the densely populated East Coast, could subtract between 25,000 and 75,000 jobs from November's nonfarm payrolls.
The closely watch employment report, which will be released on Friday, is expected to show payrolls increased only 93,000 last month after advancing 171,000 job in October, according to Reuters survey of economists. The unemployment rate is seen holding steady at 7.9 percent.
The claims report showed the number of people still receiving benefits under regular state programs after an initial week of aid dropped 100,000 to 3.21 million in the week ended November 24.
Meanwhile, Planned layoffs at U.S. firms rose for the third month in a row in November, partly driven by the bankruptcy of Hostess Brands, a report showed on Thursday.
Employers announced 57,081 job cuts last month, the highest level since May and up nearly 20 percent from 47,724 in October, according to the report from consultants Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.
November's job cuts were also up 34.4 percent from the 42,474 seen a year ago.
Still, 2012 is shaping up to be a better year than last year. With one month to go, employers have announced 490,806 cuts in 2012, lower than 2011's total of 606,082 layoffs.
Reuters contributed to this report.