MISSOULA COUNTY - The weekly number of Americans looking for unemployment benefits fell 15,000 last week to 330,000. Some experts are saying that means solid job growth and fewer layoffs.
Labor officials said there wasn't any indication that freezing weather could have caused the drop in applications.
Fewer people are expected to receive benefits in 2014 due to an emergency federal program's expiration on December 28. The program gave up to 47 additional weeks of unemployment benefits to roughly 1.3 million people. Now, congress is debating if it should bring back the emergency program for another three months.
During Senator Jon Tester's recent visit to Western Montana, NBC Montana asked him what he thought about a possible extension of unemployment benefits. He said that education and the retraining of people for in-demand industries are important, while also explaining his view that an extension of unemployment benefits could help create jobs.
"These folks spend money in stores that hire people and they buy products that are perishable and they have to be replaced, so it does. There's no doubt about that," said Tester.