- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 22, 2005


The number of Americans thrown out of work by Hurricane Katrina shot up by 103,000 last week, bringing the total seeking jobless benefits because of the storm to 214,000, the government reported yesterday.

The latest weekly jobless-claims figure showed that the adverse economic impact from the country’s most expensive natural disaster continues to rise as more evacuees are able to reach state unemployment offices to file claims.

The 214,000 total applications for unemployment benefits related to the hurricane included 91,000 claims for two weeks ago, a figure that originally had been put at 68,000, and 20,000 claims for the week ending Sept. 3.

The 103,000 new hurricane-related jobless claims were out of a total of 432,000 claims last week, which was the highest level for total jobless claims since July 5, 2003.

Last week’s total increase was up from 424,000 claims filed the previous week.

Also yesterday, the Conference Board reported that its widely followed gauge of future economic activity fell for the second straight month during August as consumer confidence sagged even before Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast.

The Index of Leading Economic Indicators fell 0.2 percent last month to 137.6. July’s slight increase was revised to a small decrease, and downward revisions were made to previous months.

The private research group said consumer expectations, one of the components of the index, fell during August. The data for the index were collected before Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast.

Some private economists are predicting that at least a half-million people will have lost their jobs when Katrina’s final economic toll is calculated.

In the government’s most complete forecast of Katrina’s impact, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has estimated that Katrina-related job losses will total 400,000 for the final four months of this year.

That estimate was made well before Hurricane Rita developed into a massive storm, forcing the ordered evacuation of more than 1.3 million people in Texas and Louisiana. Rita, which is expected to make landfall in Texas tomorrow, has shut down oil production off the Texas coast and sent oil prices soaring again.

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