The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits soared last week by the most in nearly five years, driven by Hurricane Harvey’s impact on Texas and Louisiana.
The Labor Department says weekly applications for jobless aid jumped 62,000 to a seasonally adjusted 298,000, reaching the highest level in two years.
Applications soared by more than 51,000 in Texas, a five-fold increase, and ticked up 258 in Louisiana.
Excluding the impact of the storm, the data suggests the job market remains healthy. Applications are a proxy for layoffs, and have hovered at historically low levels for two years.
Americans who have lost jobs through no fault of their own can seek unemployment aid. Natural disasters can frequently cause spikes. Superstorm Sandy drove the last huge increase in applications in 2012.