NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - The number of Americans filing for unemployment assistance rose by 18,000 last week, the government reported Thursday, as the figures that have fluctuated with the series of hurricanes on the East Coast came in above estimates.
Initial claims for unemployment insurance rose to 369,000 in the week ended Sept. 25, up from a revised 351,000 the previous week, the Labor Department reported. Economists expected 340,000 people to file for assistance, according to Briefing.com.
The weekly readings on jobless claims have fluctuated dramatically in August and September as the Southeast has been mauled by four hurricanes in six weeks.
The four-week moving average of initial claims, which is meant to smooth out some of those swings, came in at 343,500, up from a revised 341,250 the previous week.
Friday's report on the unemployment rate and payroll changes for September may add more clarity to the job market and become a focal point for the remaining two presidential debates as it will be the last report before the Nov. 2 election.
Continuing claims, or those people who have already received one week of assistance, fell to 2,873,000 in the week ended Sept. 18, the latest figures available, down from 2,876,000 the previous week.
States along the East Coast topped the list for the highest numbers of initial claims. Florida, which has been hit by Hurricane Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne reported 8,797 new filings.
States that felt some of the residual effects of the hurricanes, including Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Delaware, New Jersey and New York, rounded out the list with California, the country's most populous state.