WASHINGTON — Oct 12, 2017, 8:46 AM ET

Fewer people seek jobless aid as hurricane impact fades

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Fewer people sought unemployment benefits last week as the impact of last month's hurricanes on the U.S. economy fades.

THE NUMBERS: Applications for U.S. unemployment aid fell 15,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 243,000. Applications fell in Texas and Florida, where Hurricanes Harvey and Irma inflicted heavy damage in late August and September.

The number of people receiving benefits nationwide fell 32,000 to a seasonally adjusted 1.89 million, the lowest level since late December 1973.

KEY DRIVERS: Applications had spiked to 298,000 after Harvey hit Texas in late August, but have mostly fallen since then. The number of people seeking unemployment aid in Puerto Rico also fell last week, though that may reflect ongoing power outages and other damage, a department spokesman said. That has likely made it harder for residents to apply.

The hurricanes forced thousands of businesses to shut down and cost the U.S. economy 33,000 jobs in September, the Labor Department said last week. But outside of the hurricane-impacted areas, the job market looks solid.

The unemployment rate fell in September to 4.2 percent, a 16-year low, from 4.4 percent in August, as many unemployed workers in parts of the country unaffected by the hurricanes found jobs.

THE TAKEAWAY: Applications are a proxy for layoffs, so the decline points to a healthy job market. Businesses are optimistic about future demand and are holding onto their workers.

The hurricanes are expected to weigh on the economy in the July-September quarter. Economists forecast growth will slip to about 2 percent at an annual rate, down from 3.1 percent in the April-June quarter. But the economy should rebound as rebuilding and repairing damage from the hurricanes gets under way. Growth will likely reach 2.5 percent in the final three months of the year, analysts expect.

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  • P bis

    This article was written by the WH press room. People devastated by these storms dont want to stand in line for hours and fill out voluminous paperwork for a measley check that takes weeks to get. They have to rebuild their homes, get children back to school, get a replacement vehicle, etc. The WH is innudating the media with Trump"s so called fabulous work which doesnt exist.

  • Princess

    ...the lowest level since late December 1973.

    THAT should be in the headline.

  • rightened

    "Fewer people seek jobless aid..." Perhaps because it really doesn't do any good? Let's hear it. How many people have gone to seek help, but found it to be an insufficient, ineffective means to gain assistance?

    Back in 2007, I went to get SNAP/food assistance. Spent the entire day in lines, talking to about ten different people, turning over all my financial information, getting fingerprinted and photographed, and otherwise appealing for help as a tax-paying American. Two weeks later, I got the notice that I was eligible for just over $20 a month. And no, I'm not kidding. (I was out of work but doing temp jobs and not seeking unemployment help, incidentally.) The county gave me that "generous" offer, which I rejected before taking a penny... mostly because, in order to get that first month's $20, I had to go and clean up a park on a day when I'd already lined up a $17/hour temp job (for one day only), two weeks earlier. The letter came and I had less than two days' notice to tell the county I would have had to cancel (which meant getting a letter from my employer, taking it to the office in person, and hoping that I was granted "permission" to get off their duty required work day assignment), and yet I'd STILL risk losing that $20+ that month--as a penalty for not showing up for city/county cleanup.

    "Aid" isn't out there like you might think it is. Hit a rough patch in your life, try and apply to various sources to get help, and then you get to learn that the hard way that whatever wealth of assistance you think people are receiving is grossly exaggerated for the most part.

  • Propilotone

    Its going to be a prosperous few years for restoration, remodeling, construction services, household goods, small electrics, and appliances as well as automobiles and it may spur economic activity for 5-10 years.