WASHINGTON (AFP) – New claims for US unemployment benefits rose more than expected last week, after two weeks of sharp declines linked largely to seasonal layoffs, government data showed Thursday.

Initial jobless claims surged more than eight percent to a seasonally adjusted 464,000 in the week ending July 17, the Labor Department reported.

The increase was bigger than the average analyst forecast of 445,000.

It was the first time this year that new claims had not fallen more than two weeks in a row.

Labor Department officials have said that the most recent drop was due, in part, to a decline in temporary layoffs. General Motors and other automakers have eschewed their normal summer shutdowns.