Jobless claims fall back to pre-storm range

WASHINGTON, Thu Dec 6, 2012 — The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell for a third straight week last week, dropping back to their pre-superstorm Sandy range.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 25,000 to a seasonally adjusted 370,000 in the week ended December 1, the Labor Department said on Thursday.

Last week’s drop brought them back to their pre-storm’s 360,000-370,000 range, which economists said suggested there had been no marked weakening in the labor market. They had forecast claims falling to 380,0000.

“We could reasonably assume there is no underlying deterioration or acceleration in the labor market before the storm,” said Pierre Ellis, senior global economist at Decision Economics Inc. in New York.

“We should still have a relative poor payroll reading tomorrow, but we should have some confidence that payrolls would bounce back in December.”

The four-week moving average for new claims, a better measure of labor market trends, rose 2,250 to 408,000, reflecting the impact of the late October storm. That was the highest level since October last year.