WASHINGTON — The number of people applying for unemployment benefits rose sharply last week as snowstorms in some parts of the country forced companies to lay off workers.
Applications surged by a seasonally adjusted 51,000 to 454,000, the highest level since late October.
However, much of the increase was blamed on bad weather in four Southern states. That caused some companies to temporarily shut down, a government analyst says.
Snowstorms several weeks ago had kept people from filing claims. Requests for unemployment benefits fell sharply in the previous week to 403,000.
Applications below 425,000 tend to signal modest job growth. But they would need to dip consistently to 375,000 or below to indicate a significant decline in the unemployment rate