The number of people seeking unemployment benefits last week fell by 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 355,000, a possible sign of a healing job market. But officials cautioned that the figures were distorted by Superstorm Sandy.

SEASIDE HEIGHTS, NJ - NOVEMBER 01: A man takes a picture on the boardwalk near the Casino Pier that was partially destroyed by Superstorm Sandy on November 1, 2012 in Seaside Heights, New Jersey. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)Applications declined in one state because its unemployment office lost power during the storm and wasn't able to receive applications, a department spokesman said. The spokesman wouldn't identify the state.

The storm also pushed up applications in other states because those temporarily out of work sought benefits.

The Labor Department says that the four-week average of applications, a less volatile measure, rose 3,250 to 370,500.

If sustained, the decline in applications would be a good sign. Still, the storm could affect the figures for up to three to four weeks, the spokesman said.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)