updated 11/15/2007 11:10:57 AM ET 2007-11-15T16:10:57

The number of laid off workers filing claims for unemployment benefits rose by a larger-than-expected amount last week, partly reflecting the impact of the California wildfires and a writers’ strike.

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The Labor Department said that the number of applications for jobless benefits jumped by 20,000 to 339,000, the highest total in a month.

The increase was double what economists had been expecting.

Labor Department analysts said that the California wildfires boosted the number of jobless claims by about 2,000 lay offs and the writer’s strike, which has shut down production on many television programs, was also having an impact.

Over the past three weeks, the wildfires have increased jobless claims by between 5,000 and 6,000, primarily reflecting businesses that have had to close or lay off workers because of disruptions caused by the fires.

The increase in claims occurred after three consecutive weekly declines. Because of that improvement, the four-week average for claims remained unchanged last week at 330,000.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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