Lagging Isabel Claims Boost Jobless Numbers

October 2, 2003 ( - Hurricane Isabel continued to bedevil the jobless claims recordkeeping system as lagging claims from mid-September finally hit - driving up the latest government claims totals.

According to the US Department of Labor, first-time unemployment claims for the week ending September 27 climbed 13,000 to 399,000 from a revised 386,000. However, the DoL said about half the increase came from claims that couldn’t be filed the week before when Isabel churned up the East Coast, causing havoc and power outages that, among other things, shuttered unemployment offices in Southern and Mid-Atlantic states.

The DoL report for the week ending September 20 showed a 19,000-claims decrease – in part because of the claims that couldn’t be filed because of the storm (See Isabel’s Power Outages Drive Down Jobless Totals ). Economists participating in Reuters’ regular survey had predicted 395,000 claims.

The four-week moving average, a widely watched indicator because it irons out short-term volatility, fell 5,000 to 403,500 from the previous week’s revised average of 408,500.

Analysts are eagerly awaiting Friday’s payrolls report for a more comprehensive read of the nation’s sluggish labor market, during September which has lagged the recovery in other areas of the economy. The government announced in September that the domestic job market had shed  93,000 non-farm jobs during August and that the unemployment rate ticked down to 6.1% from 6.2% in the previous month (See  DoL: Market Hemorrhaged Jobs in August ).