The number of people seeking unemployment aid rose last week for the first time in a month. But the rise comes after weekly claims fell to their lowest level in three and a half years in the previous week, and the overall downward trend suggests hiring could accelerate soon.

Here are states with the biggest increases and decreases in unemployment benefit applications, and some of the reasons for the changes. The state data is for the week ended Dec. 17, one week behind the national figures:

States with the biggest decreases:

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