New jobless claims in Maryland hit the highest number the state has seen since 1974 this December. Total claims were just under 45,000 new unemployment filings for the month, a 49% leap up from the previous month, and 13% above where the state had been at the same time the year before. Some state officials had expected the number to drop in December, based on a growing perception that layoffs were slowing, but the jump shows that the worst may not be over for Maryland yet. The spike is believed to be at least partly seasonal but also has raised concerns over the ever-dwindling unemployment benefits fund. Labor officials hope that a number of the claims prove to be only temporary.