The number of new workers filing for unemployment benefits unexpectedly dropped last week. The Labor Department reports that claims fell by 22,000 to 432,000, the lowest level since July 2008.
Michigan had the largest increase in the number of people filing for benefits due to continuing layoffs in the auto industry. California and Florida also saw substantial increases due to job losses in construction and the service industry. Meantime, several of the states that saw the number of claims drop, cited fewer layoffs in manufacturing as the reason.
Although the number of initial claims fell, the data shows that people are spending more time out of work. The number of people who are now collecting extended unemployment benefits climbed by nearly 200,000 in the week that ended December 12. The need for extended benefits has been so great that the federal government recently extended the emergency program through February.