Jobless Claims Decline as Hurricane Harvey Impact Fades in Texas

Texas Guardsmen from the 272nd Engineer Battalion partnered with Texas Task Force One, prepare to help evacuate Texans in need during Hurricane Harvey in Houston.
Texas Military Dept photo by Staff Sgt. Timothy Pruitt

Applications for unemployment benefits in the U.S. unexpectedly declined last week as the Hurricane Harvey-related surge in Texas filings continued to reverse, Labor Department figures showed Sept. 21.

Highlights of Jobless Claims for the Week Ended Sept. 16

• Jobless claims declined by 23,000 to 259,000 (estimated 302,000).

• Continuing claims increased by 44k to 1.98 million in week ended Sept. 9 (data reported with one-week lag).

• Four-week average of initial claims, a less-volatile measure than the weekly figure, rose to 268,750 from 262,750 in prior week.

Key Takeaways

Applications for unemployment insurance last week were estimated for South Carolina and the Virgin Islands. While Irma smashed into Florida’s west coast on Sept. 10, its effect on the job market in the Sunshine State was modest — up an unadjusted 5,133 from the previous week — compared with Harvey’s impact on Texas.

Claims in Texas declined by an unadjusted 23,549 last week.

Swings in the figures may continue for several weeks, following the pattern seen after major storms such as Sandy in the Northeast in 2012. Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico on Sept. 20.

The volatility in jobless applications will probably prove temporary as those in storm-affected areas return to work. The Atlantic hurricane season has nonetheless upended a trend that saw dismissals near the lowest level in more than four decades. Subdued filings were a sign employers were averse to firing people amid a shortage of qualified workers.

Other Details

• Prior week’s reading was revised to 282,000 from 284,000.

• Unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits held at 1.4%, where it’s been since April.

• Labor said claims in Florida and Puerto Rico were affected by Irma.

With assistance by Chris Middleton