WASHINGTON, Jan. 16 (Xinhua) -- The number of Americans initially applying for unemployment aid fell to the lowest level in six weeks last week, the Labor Department said Thursday.
In the week ending Jan. 11, the advance figure of seasonally adjusted initial claims for jobless benefits fell by 2,000 to 326, 000, the lowest level since late November.
Meanwhile, the four-week moving average, which helps smooth out week-to-week volatility, edged down by 13,500 to 335,000 last week, the lowest since early December, a sign that the labor market continues to improve.
However, the Labor Department's December jobs report released last week painted a mixed picture of the labor market recovery. The economy added only 74,000 jobs last month, less than the average monthly gain of 183,000 in the past year, but the unemployment rate fell to a five-year low of 6.7 percent from 7 percent in November, as more unemployed Americans left the workforce.
Some Federal Reserve officials have downplayed the weak December jobs report, indicating the Fed may stick to its plan for gradually unwinding its bond purchase program at its next policy meeting due on Jan. 28-29. Dennis Lockhart, president of Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank, said Monday that the Fed might reduce its monthly bond purchases by 10 billion dollars at each of its policy meetings this year.
In December, the Fed announced that it would taper its purchases of Treasury and mortgage-backed debt to a pace of 75 billion U.S. dollars a month from 85 billion dollars a month starting in January.