The number of people who have lost their jobs in the US as a result of recent hurricanes has topped 500,000.
Analysts had predicted that more jobs would go
The Labor Department said that job losses from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in the past two months were 502,000, with 24,000 posts lost last week.
There may be further unemployment ahead due to the effects of Hurricane Wilma, which hit Florida on Monday.
Total first-time claims for state unemployment insurance benefits were 328,000 for the week to 22 October.
This was the second week running when the first-time claimant number fell, and the number was below analysts estimates.
Economists, on average, had expected claims to come in at 340,000.
The Labor Department also said the number of hurricane-related claims had been levelling out after the initial rush in mid-September following the hurricanes.
The four-week moving average of weekly claims, which is seen as a more accurate indicator of continuing employment conditions - because it eliminates weekly volatility - fell for the third week in a row.
That figure dropped to 366,500 from 376,500 the previous week.
The numbers staying on the benefits register after receiving a week of assistance rose to the highest level since early August 2004.
These "continued claims" rose for the second consecutive week, climbing 42,000 to 2.90 million in the week ending 15 October.