20110921 hurricane irene fema
Debris from a building lies scattered about the property of a heavily damaged supermarket after Hurricane Irene sent the Delaware River surging in N.Y. - 

Jeremy Hobson: The government said this morning that the number of people seeking unemployment benefits fell by 37,000 last week to 391,000.

And that's where we'll start with Diane Swonk, chief economist with Mesirow Financial. She's with us live from Chicago as she is every Thursday. Good morning.

Diane Swonk: Good morning.

Hobson: So what's the reason you see for this drop?

Swonk: Well, we say the drop mostly because those people displaced and out of work by Hurricane Irene returned to the work place they were no longer applying for unemployment benefits, that's the good news. The bad news it we're still not seeing a lot of hiring out there, and the long-term unemployed edged higher.

Hobson: And that's something we've heard over and over again, how do you get these people who've been out of work for a long time back to work?

Swonk: Well this one of the greatest challenges we face. I know a veteran that's just returned from Iraq after, Afghanistan, after ten years of deployment. He was an IT specialist in 2000-2001. His IT skills clearly aren't the same today as they were back then given most of his time was spent in a Black Hawk helicopter and as a sharpshooter, and it's really hard to reintegrate these people into the economy and the longer they stay put, the harder it is to re-engage them.

Hobson: Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial, thanks as always.

Swonk: Thank you.