The number of Americans thrown out of work by Hurricane Katrina shot up by 103,000 last week, bringing the total seeking jobless benefits because of the storm to 214,000, the government reported Thursday.
The latest weekly jobless claims figure showed that the adverse economic impact from the country’s most expensive natural disaster continues to rise as more evacuees are able to make it to state unemployment offices to file claims.
The 214,000 total number of applications for unemployment benefits related to the hurricane included 91,000 claims for two weeks ago, a figure that had originally been put at 68,000, and 20,000 claims for the week ending Sept. 3.
The 103,000 new hurricane-related jobless claims were out of a total of 432,000 claims last week, which was the highest level for total jobless claims since July 5, 2003.
Last week’s total increase was up from 424,000 claims filed the previous week.
Some private economists are predicting that a half million people or more will have lost jobs when Katrina’s final economic toll is calculated.
In the government’s most complete forecast of Katrina’s impact, the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that Katrina-related job losses will total 400,000 for the final four months of this year.
That estimate was made well before Hurricane Rita developed into a massive storm, forcing the ordered evacuation of more than 1.3 million people in Texas and Louisiana. Rita, which was expected to make landfall in Texas on Saturday, has already shut down oil production off the Texas coast and sent oil prices soaring again.
The CBO estimated that the devastation from Katrina alone would cut economic growth by as much as a full percentage point in the second half of this year. However, forecasters believe much of that decline will be made up in 2006 as billions of dollars in rebuilding projects get under way.
The Labor Department said that the biggest increase in claims for the week ending Sept. 10 occurred in Louisiana, an increase of 49,665, with most of those claims related to the hurricane.
Claims increased by 5,177 in Mississippi, with all of those claims linked to Katrina. The state data lags one week behind the national claims information.