WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment aid fell sharply last week as a temporary spike caused by Superstorm Sandy has faded. Weekly applications have fallen back to a level consistent with modest hiring.
The Labor Department said Thursday that applications dropped 25,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 370,000.
Unemployment aid applications spiked a month ago after Sandy shuttered businesses in the Northeast. Applications jumped to 451,000 in the week ended Nov. 10. People can claim unemployment benefits if their workplaces are forced to close and they aren't paid.
Some analysts were encouraged by how quickly applications have returned to pre-storm levels. Pierre Ellis, an economist at Decision Economics, said the rapid drop suggests companies are quickly re-hiring workers displaced by the storm. Rebuilding and repair efforts could also be creating jobs, he said.
The report is "a positive development for the labor market, which appears to be recovering from the temporary effects of Sandy more rapidly than originally anticipated," Joseph LaVorgna, an economist at Deutsche Bank, said in a note to clients.
The early impact of Sandy can still be seen in the four-week average. It rose to 408,000 last week.
Before the storm hit on Oct. 29, applications had fluctuated this year between 360,000 and 390,000. They topped 400,000 for most of last year. That has coincided with only modest declines in the unemployment rate.