The number of Americans lining up for new jobless benefits fell more than expected last week, the Labor Department said Thursday, though the number was distorted by Hurricane Sandy.

In the week ending Nov. 3, applications for unemployment insurance payments declined by 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 355,000. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims would climb to 370,000 last week. Initial claims from two weeks ago were unrevised at 363,000.

An analyst from the U.S. Labor Department said Sandy boosted claims in some states by leaving people out of work, but also reduced claims in at least one state because power outages kept the state from collecting claim reports, Reuters reports.

It may take three to four weeks to see the full impact, a Labor Department spokesman told Bloomberg. Claims may rise again in coming weeks as more storm-related applications begin to be processed.

The four-week moving average, which normally provides a better indication of the underlying trend in labor markets than the weekly number of jobless claims, rose by 3,250 to 370,500 for first-time benefit applicants.

The number of people filing for benefits after an initial week of aid increased fell 135,000 to 3.13 million in the week ending Oct. 27. The continuing claims figure does not include the number of Americans receiving extended benefits under federal programs.

Job gains are of great importance, because they lead to income growth, and that supports consumer spending, which accounts for more than 70 percent of the U.S. economy.

Hiring increased last month, while the unemployment rate edged higher. The economy added 171,000 jobs in October, while the unemployment ticked up to 7.9 percent, from 7.8 percent in September.