Superstorm Sandy jolted the U.S. labor market last week, with claims for jobless benefits surging to their highest level in 18 months.
The U.S. government said Thursday that 439,000 workers filed claims for unemployment benefits, up 78,000 from the week before. Several states said the October 29 storm wreaked havoc on businesses along the country's northeastern seaboard, with the worst damage in the heavily developed New York-New Jersey metropolitan area.
With some jobless benefit offices closed by the immediate effects of the storm, some unemployed workers were unable to seek assistance until last week, adding to the jump in claims. U.S. President Barack Obama is visiting the storm-ravaged region Thursday for the second time.
The U.S. labor market has been improving at a modest pace, with the jobless rate below 8 percent for the last two months after being above that level for 44 straight months. More than 12 million workers remain unemployed, however, as the country struggles to recover from its worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s.