updated 12/28/2006 8:42:16 AM ET 2006-12-28T13:42:16

The number of workers applying for jobless benefits rose a smaller-than-expected 1,000 to 317,000 in the week ended December 23, according to a Labor Department report on Thursday that showed a stable job market.

The prior week’s jobless claims number was revised up by 1,000. Wall Street economists had forecast that claims in the December 23 week would be a seasonally adjusted 320,000.

The four-week moving average of claims, considered a more reliable indicator because it irons out temporary fluctuations, declined to 315,750 in the week ended December 23, from 326,000 in the prior week.

The number of people filing for continuing claims rose to 2.53 million in the week ended December 16 — the most recent week these data were available — from 2.51 million the prior week. That was the highest level since late January, when this number hit 2.55 million.

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