U.S. initial jobless claims rocketed 78,000 higher to 439,000 -- a surge largely triggered by the impact of Hurricane Sandy, the U.S. Labor Department announced Thursday.

Predictably, the northeast and mid-Atlantic U.S. experienced large increases in claims due to the storm, which also knocked out power to about 2 million electric utility customers on New York's Long Island, alone.

Due to storms, strikes and other anomalies, economists more closely follow the 4-week moving average, which smooths out those anomalies: that average increased 11,750 to 372,000.

Details to  follow.