Jobless claims surge after Hurricane Harvey

Jobless claims surge after Hurricane Harvey
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Unemployment applications spiked last week to the highest level in more than two years in the wake of Hurricane Harvey's lashing of Texas and Louisiana.

Weekly jobless claims hit 298,000 in the week ending Sept. 2, an increase of 62,000 from the previous week's 236,000, the highest level for initial claims since April 18, 2015, the Labor Department reported on Thursday.

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The one-week jump in claims was the largest since an increase of 81,000 in November 2012 after Superstorm Sandy barreled into the Northeast.  

Claims jumped 96,000 after Hurricane Katrina hit in September 2005, according to Gus Faucher, PNC chief economist.

With Hurricane Irma bearing down on Florida and the East Coast, claims may experience more surges in the coming weeks. 

Outside of the severe weather, the job market remains healthy and is nearing full employment.

Employers are keeping their workers amid a shortage of qualified applicants.

The most recent data show that the less volatile four-week average was 250,250, an increase of 13,500.

"Claims so far suggest that the hit to the national job market from Harvey will be limited," Faucher said.

"Monthly job growth weakened in the wakes of Katrina and Sandy, but did not outright decline," he said.

"There is also the possibility of additional job losses tied to Hurricane Irma, which may hit Florida over the next few days."

Last week, applications increased more than 51,000 in Texas and rose 258 in Louisiana.

Overall, the number of people filing for jobless benefits fell 5,000 to 1.94 million.

Hiring in August slowed to 156,000 jobs but the pace of growth is still enough to lower the unemployment rate, which was 4.4 percent last month.