Superstorm Sandy pushes US jobless claims to 439K


Superstorm Sandy drove the number of people seeking unemployment benefits up to a seasonally adjusted 439,000 last week, the highest level in 18 months.

The Labor Department says applications increased by 78,000 because a large number of applications were filed in states damaged by the storm. People can claim unemployment benefits if their workplaces close and they don't get paid.

The storm may distort claims for another two weeks, the department has said.

The four-week average of applications, a less volatile number, increased to 383,750.

Before the storm, applications fluctuated between 360,000 and 390,000 this year. At the same time, employers added an average of nearly 157,000 jobs a month. That's barely enough to lower the unemployment rate, which was 7.9 percent in October.

Meantime, President Obama will visit some of the areas devastated by the storm. Over two weeks after the storm struck, dozens of communities are in ruins.

"We really don't sleep. Our minds are just constantly going," said Diane Rivera, a Staten Island resident. Staten Island was one of the hardest hit areas of New York, and it saw the largest number of deaths.

"Just heartbreak. Absolute heartbreak. We had a nice house and our family here and we were happy here and now it's gone. It's gone and we're trying out best to get it back," said Rivera.

Thousands of families are struggling to get back to normal. Their homes were reduced to piles of rubble.

"It was our whole life that we took out and put on the curb for the trash. Everything from cups to spoons to beds, my children's toys. Everything," said Rivera.

Electric crews continue to work around the clock, but thousands of residents are still without power two weeks after the storm.

"They keep telling me different things, yes you will get electricity soon. We've been waiting here," said Los Tuma, an Oceanside, Long Island resident.

An army of volunteers, along with the National Guard, is participating in relief efforts, but there is still an overwhelming need.