The Labor Department said Thursday that the number of Americans who have lost their jobs because of the string of devastating Gulf Coast hurricanes rose to 542,000 last week.
The increase included 15,000 applications for jobless benefits related to Katrina and Rita and 6,000 linked to Hurricane Wilma.
The increase of 21,000 hurricane-related jobless claims came out of a total of 326,000 new applications for jobless benefits filed last week, an increase of 2,000 from the previous week. That was a worse-than-expected showing. Analysts had been expecting overall claims to decline last week.