Washington, D.C.-

The nation’s unemployment rate jumped sharply due to Hurricane Superstorm Sandy, up 78,000 to a seasonally adjusted 439,000. That was well above analyst’s expectations of 375,000.

States in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast have reported significant new jobless claims following Sandy while the rest of the nation continued on its slow improvement.

This surge in new unemployment claims was the largest one week increase since September 2005.

Retail sales data on Wednesday pointed to a softening in U.S. consumer spending early in the fourth quarter. Overall retail sales fell as Sandy slammed the brakes on automobile purchases last month.

The four-week moving average for jobless claims, which smoothes out volatility, rose 11,750 to 383,750. Economists generally think a reading below 400,000 points to an increase in employment.

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