Tomorrow we're expecting the all-important monthly jobs report. But numbers released today show fewer Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week. New claims fell for a third straight week. Initial claims dropped by 25,000 to seasonally adjusted 370,000, according to the Labor Department. Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial in Chicago, says superstorm Sandy played a role in the numbers.
"What we saw was superstorm Sandy hit such a highly populated area of the country and disrupted so much economic activity you actually saw a surge in claims in the wake of the storm. Now that things are trying to get back to normal, those claims have come off a bit. We're also seeing some repair and rebuilding get under way. The problem, of course, is the people who benefit from this sort of perverse stimulus from Sandy -- because it's such a large populated area with a lot of damages -- that will outweigh the losses. But it's a different group of people that get the jobs to repair and rebuild damaged properties than the people who lost hours worked because their place of work was shut down," says Swonk.