The number of people claiming unemployment benefits continued to rise for the second week, according to a report by the U.S. Labor Department.

For the week ended Jan. 8, initial claims rose by 35,000 from the previous week to 445,000, the report said.

The insured unemployment rate for the week ended Jan. 1 was 3.1 percent, a drop of 0.2 percentage points from the previous week. The week before saw the highest rates in Alaska, Oregon and Idaho.

The total number of people claiming benefits in all programs for the week ending Dec. 25 was 9,193,838.

The largest increases for initial claims for the week ending Jan. 1 were in Georgia, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Unemployment rate in the U.S. dropped during December by 0.4 percentage points to 9.4 percent. However, many economists remain skeptical about the sustainability of the drop, particularly given other economic indicators.

The U.S. government extended availability of unemployment benefits in 2011. Originally, benefits could be availed only for 99 weeks.