The U.S. Labor Department reports that jobless claims for last week fell by 8,000 claims to 355,000. A spokesman for the Labor Department says they believe that last week’s lower rate of jobless claims is attributed to Hurricane Sandy. Department officials expect that jobless claims could jump back up in three to four weeks, because usually it takes about that long to see the full impact of a major storm.

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They say widespread power outages across the area affected by Hurricane Sandy likely prevented many people from filing their unemployment claims. The unemployment office in one state was without power for a significant period of time, which prevented people from filing their claims. That could mean that those who could not file their claims last week may do so this week. In addition, department officials say some people may have found jobs as a result of the storm and the cleanup that is now required.

Analysts say it’s very common to see a dramatic drop in jobless claims after a major storm and then a rebound in the weeks right after. However, they say if the claims do remain lower than 360,000 after the effects of Hurricane Sandy have worn off, then it’s a good sign that the job market is beginning to recover from the recession.

There are some indications that the job market is getting better. For example, October saw the addition of 171,000 new jobs, and September and August’s hiring rates were much more improved than officials at the Labor Department expected they would be.  Since July the economy has added approximately 173,000 jobs each month, which is a dramatic increase from 67,000 jobs each month between April and June.

However, the Labor Department reports that there were fewer open positions posted by employers in September than there were in August. However, the number of openings was higher in August than expected. According to department officials, employers were able to fill fewer positions, although the number of layoffs was also down in September.

Most economists believe that the economy will continue to grow slowly through the early part of next year. Currently most of them are focused on the “fiscal cliff,” which is a bundle of spending cuts and tax increases that are expected to take effect in January. Economists believe that if Congress can avoid that cliff, growth of the economy could be accelerated. However, they also believe that the U.S. could be pushed back into a recession if that fiscal cliff is not avoided.