The number of Americans initially applying for unemployment aid near the end of January rose to the highest level in six weeks, the Labor Department said Thursday. In the week ending Jan. 25, the advance figure of seasonally adjusted initial claims for jobless benefits rose by 19,000 to 348, 000, the highest since mid-December. Meanwhile, the four-week moving average, which helps smooth out week-to-week volatility, edged up by 750 to 333,000 last week. The advance figure of seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending Jan. 18 stood at 2.991 million, down 16,000 from the previous week. Economists said the rising jobless claims didn't mean deterioration in the labor market. Jobless claims figures tend to be volatile from late November to the end of January because of statistical adjustments around the holiday season and wintry weather. The U.S. Federal Reserve said Wednesday that while labor market indicators were "mixed" since the end of last year, there were signs of "further improvement" on balance. The central bank decided to reduce the pace of monthly bond purchases by another 10 billion dollars starting next month.