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Jobless Claims Highest Since Right After 9/11

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And we haven’t even felt the effects from the credit crunch.

From MarketWatch:

For the week ended Sept. 27, seasonally adjusted first-time claims for unemployment benefits rose 1,000, to stand at 497,000 — the highest since late September 2001. The higher number reflects claims following the damage wreaked by Hurricane Gustav in Louisiana and Hurricane Ike in Texas. Without the hurricane-related claims, initial filings would have been about 439,000 last week, the Labor Department said.

Initial claims ranging from about 300,000 to 325,000 are consistent with healthy job growth, economists say. Readings consistently higher than 350,000 would signal significant weakening in the labor market.

The underlying trend is “disconcertingly high,” wrote Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics.

“Payrolls have not fallen as fast as in 2001, though, suggesting the pace of gross hiring has not dropped as much as usual in a recession,” Shepherdson wrote. “We doubt this can last in the wake of the market chaos and tightening lending standards, and we still think payrolls will eventually start to fall at a much faster pace than in the past few months.”

More as it develops…