(Bloomberg) — Filings for U.S. unemployment benefits rose last week by the most since July, after spending several weeks at or near a four-decade low.

Jobless claims increased by 13,000 to 260,000 in the period ended Oct. 15, a Labor Department report showed Thursday in Washington. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for 250,000. Continuing claims also rose, though the four-week average was the lowest since 2000.

Hurricane Matthew may have accounted for some of the claims, with several affected states showing a rise in filings before seasonal adjustments. Business owners are generally resisting firing workers as economic growth steadies and the number of skilled candidates diminishes. Even with the increase, filings have been below 300,000 for 85 straight weeks — the longest streak since 1970 and a level typical for a healthy labor market.

Bloomberg/file photo

Estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from 235,000 to 300,000. The Labor Department revised the prior week’s reading to 247,000 from an initially reported 246,000.

The four-week average of claims, a less-volatile measure than the weekly figure, increased to 251,750 from 249,500 in the prior week.

Continuing claims
The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits rose by 7,000 to 2.06 million in the week ended Oct. 8. The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits held at 1.5 percent. These d`ata are reported with a one-week lag.

No states had estimated claims last week and there was nothing unusual in the data, according to the Labor Department.

Economists at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. had projected a 10,000 gain in jobless claims as workers displaced by Hurricane Matthew began to file. Bank of America Merrill Lynch estimated a total figure of 300,000 for initial claims; the next-highest estimates were for 260,000.

The storm moved up the Florida coastline on Oct. 7 before making landfall in South Carolina the following day and continuing on to North Carolina, causing flooding and power outages along the way.

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