WASHINGTON, Oct 20 (Reuters) - The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits rose more than expected last week, but remained below a level that is associated with a strong labor market.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 13,000 to a seasonally adjusted 260,000 for the week ended Oct. 15, the Labor Department said on Thursday.
That marked 85 straight weeks of claims below the 300,000 threshold normally associated with a strong jobs market, the longest period since 1970, when the labor market was much smaller. Claims for the prior week were revised to show 1,000 more applications received than previously reported.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast first-time applications for jobless benefits rising to 250,000 in the latest week. Part of the increase in claims last week could be related to the effects of Hurricane Matthew, which lashed the Southeast of the country, causing severe flooding.
The storm could have left some people temporarily out of work. Unadjusted claims for North Carolina increased 2,520 last week. Outside the storm-affected states, there were big increases in unadjusted claims for Michigan, Kentucky and California.
A Labor Department analyst said there were no special factors influencing last week's data and that no states had been estimated.
The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, rose 2,250 to 251,750 last week.
The claims data covered the survey week for October's nonfarm payrolls. The four-week average of claims fell 6,500 between the September and October survey periods, suggesting another month of solid employment growth.
Thursday's claims report also showed the number of people still receiving benefits after an initial week of aid increased 7,000 to 2.06 million in the week ended Oct. 8. The four-week average of the so-called continuing claims dropped 12,750 to 2.05 million. That was the lowest reading since July 2000. (Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)