New claims for US unemployment insurance benefits plunged more than expected last week, but the data is still being skewed by Superstorm Sandy, the government said Wednesday.
Jobless claims plummeted by 41,000 to 410,000 in the week ending November 17, the Labor Department said.
That marked a 9 percent decline from the prior week's upwardly revised number of 451,000. Analysts on average had estimated claims would drop to 423,000.
By volume, it was the biggest drop in new jobless claims -- an indicator of the pace of layoffs -- since early February 2010.
But the improvement came after the prior week's 25 percent jump in claims in the wake of Sandy, which both interrupted reporting and forced people out of work in the northeast.
"Our numbers are still distorted by Hurricane Sandy," a Labor Department official said.
Sandy blasted the northeastern coast of the United States at the end of October and beginning of November, shutting down major cities, leaving millions without power for days, and wrecking homes and businesses in many communities.
The weekly figure remained well above the 360,000-380,000 range for claims of the past year, and pulled the four-week moving average higher, to 386,750.