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Dozens line up to register for the The National Job Fair & Training Expo at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, 2012.J.P. MOCZULSKI/The Globe and Mail

Statistics Canada says the number of people receiving regular employment insurance fell in December for the third time in four months, hitting a level similar to that of last spring.

The agency says there were 517,000 people on EI in December, down 1.6 per cent from November.

All provinces had fewer beneficiaries in December, with the largest percentage decreases occurring in Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador and Manitoba.

To receive EI benefits, individuals must first submit a claim and the number of claims provides an indication of the number of people who could become beneficiaries.

Nationally, there were 226,700 initial and renewal claims in December, virtually unchanged from the previous month.

Provincially, there were fewer claims in Manitoba, Alberta, New Brunswick and Quebec, while the number increased in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador and Ontario and there was little change in the other provinces.