The number of Americans initially applying for unemployment aid rose last week, but remained at a level indicating slow to moderate jobs growth, the Labor Department reported Thursday. The advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims for jobless benefits was 354,000 in the week ending June 15, up 18,000 from the revised figure of 336,000 the previous week. Meanwhile, the four-week moving average, which helps smooth out week-to-week volatility, rose by 2500 to 348,250. A reading below 375,000 generally indicates a sustained drop in the unemployment rate. The advance figure for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending June 8 stood at 2.951 million, down 40,000 from the previous week. In May, the U.S. unemployment rate ticked up to 7.6 percent with total non-farm payroll employment increasing by 175,000. U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said Wednesday the Fed would end the ongoing asset purchase program around the middle of 2014, when the U.S. unemployment rate should drop to 7 percent.