The number of people seeking unemployment benefits fell in the final week of 2011 for the fourth time in five weeks. That pushed the four-week average to its lowest level in three and a half years, a positive sign for hiring a day ahead of Friday's December jobs report.

Here are the states with the biggest increases and decreases in applications. The state-level data is for the week ended Dec. 24, one week behind the national data.

States with the biggest increases:

California: Up 16,490, due to layoffs in services

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