Louisiana Unemployment Applications Increase By 4,000 After Hurricane Ida Hits State

Unemployment aid applications in Louisiana have increased by 4,000 since Hurricane Ida hit the state, the Associated Press reported.

Ida may curtail U.S. economic growth in the quarter from July to September, but some of the economic damage is projected to be offset by repairs and rebuilding endeavors, AP reported.

While the hurricane forced oil refineries in Louisiana and Mississippi to close down and left more than 1 million businesses and homes without electricity, unemployment applications decreased in Mississippi.

The spreading Delta variant of COVID-19 may have also contributed to job losses and a resulting nationwide uptick in people seeking unemployment aid, AP reported.

Applications for unemployment benefits rose nationally last week to 332,000, compared to 312,000 the week before, the Labor Department said Thursday.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Ida Damage in Grand Isle
Unemployment applications jumped by 4,000 in Louisiana following Hurricane Ida's assault on the state. Above, a sign for a beach resort rests among storm debris in the wake of Hurricane Ida on September 4, 2021, in Grand Isle, Louisiana. Sean Rayford/Getty Images

The 312,000 people seeking unemployment aid was the lowest level since March 2020. Jobless claims, which generally track the pace of layoffs, have fallen steadily for two months as many employers, struggling to fill jobs, have held onto their workers.

Last week's increase was small and may be temporary. The four-week average of jobless claims, which smooths out fluctuations in the weekly data, dropped for the fifth straight week to just below 336,000. That figure is also the lowest since the pandemic began.

Separately, the Commerce Department reported that retail sales unexpectedly rose 0.7 percent last month, as Americans kept spending despite the rise in coronavirus cases. But how they spent continues to be skewed by the pandemic. Online shopping jumped in August but spending at restaurants, bars and other businesses that rely on crowds, appears to have gone into a holding pattern.

The job market and the broader economy have been slowed in recent weeks by the delta variant, which has discouraged many Americans from traveling, staying in hotels and eating out. Earlier this month, the government reported that employers added just 235,000 jobs in August after having added roughly a million people in both June and July.

Hiring in August plummeted in industries that require face-to-face contact with the public, notably restaurants, hotels and retailers. Still, some jobs were added in other areas, and the unemployment rate actually dropped to 5.2 percent from 5.4 percent.

The steady fall in weekly applications for unemployment benefits coincides with a scaling-back of aid for jobless Americans. Last week, more than 8 million people lost all their unemployment benefits with the expiration of two federal programs that covered gig workers and people who have been jobless for more than six months. Those emergency programs were created in March 2020, when the pandemic first tore through the economy.

An additional 2.7 million people who are receiving regular state unemployment aid lost a $300-a-week federal unemployment supplement last week.

Unemployment Applications Increase
The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits moved up last week to 332,000 from a pandemic low, a sign that worsening COVID-19 infections may have slightly increased layoffs. Above, Marriott human resources recruiter Mariela Cuevas (left) talks with Lisbet Oliveros during a job fair at Hard Rock Stadium on September 3, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Florida. Marta Lavandier/AP Photo