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Tenn. January Unemployment Increases Slightly
Tennessee's unemployment rate for January was 7.7 percent, a slight increase from the previous month.
Department of Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Karla Davis said Thursday that there are more than 2.8 million people employed in Tennessee.
That's the highest employment total for the state since December 2007.
The unemployment rate for last December was 7.6 percent. The national unemployment rate for January was 7.9 percent.
State figures show that nonfarm employment increased by 7,600 jobs between December and January.
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Last Update on March 06, 2014 18:12 GMT
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A surging stock market and rebounding home prices boosted Americans' wealth to a record in the final three months of last year, though both trends have slowed so far in 2014.
Household net worth jumped nearly $3 trillion during last year's fourth quarter to $80.7 trillion. Stock and mutual fund portfolios gained nearly $1.7 trillion, or 9 percent.
The value of Americans' homes rose just over $400 billion, a 2 percent gain. And checking account balances, pensions plan assets and retirement savings, such as 401(k)s, also increased.
Home prices nationwide during 2013 rose by the most in eight years. And the Standard & Poor's 500 index of large stocks jumped 32 percent.
So far this year, home-price gains have slowed, and the S&P 500 has risen just 1.4 percent.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits dropped 26,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 323,000, the lowest level in three months as layoffs remain at pre-recession levels.
The Labor Department says the four-week average of applications, a less volatile measure, fell slightly to a seasonally adjusted 336,500.
That average indicates that companies are cutting few jobs and anticipate steady economic growth despite the winter slowdown. Applications are a rough proxy for layoffs.
Economists are watching these numbers ahead of the February jobs report being released Friday. Cold weather and snowstorms appear to have limited hiring in January and December.
A total of 3.4 million Americans received benefits as of Feb. 15 -- the latest period for which figures are available -- down from 3.49 million the previous week.
UNDATED (AP) -- Fewer workers were losing their jobs last month, according to outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
Challenger says job cuts announced in February totaled less than 42,000, down 7.3 percent from January. Challenger says that's 24 percent less than a year ago and the lowest February total since the turn of the century.
CEO John Challenger says this isn't what he'd expect if "the economy is about ready to tip over or we're near recession." He says the relatively low number of layoffs suggests an improving business climate has reduced pressure on employers to cut jobs. At the current pace, he says, the first quarter could see the fewest job cuts since 1995.
The heaviest job-cut activity last month was in the financial sector. Challenger says some of those cuts were related to cutbacks in mortgage lending as interest rates rise, but a lot "were due to the ongoing shift away from branch banking toward increaded mobile banking."
WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. productivity grew at an even slower annual rate than previously thought in the final three months of last year.
Economists are hoping productivity growth will revive in 2014, reflecting a stronger economy.
The Labor Department says productivity grew at an annual rate of 1.8 percent in the October-December quarter, a slowdown from 3.5 percent productivity growth in the third quarter.
The new estimate was lower than the 3.2 percent gain the government had previously reported. Unit labor costs dipped 0.1 percent, a smaller drop than the 1.6 percent drop previously estimated.
For the year, productivity increased a tiny 0.5 percent, continuing a weak trend seen over the past three years. Analysts are forecasting a rebound in productivity this year, helped by stronger economic growth.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Orders to U.S. factories fell in January for a second straight month but a key category that signals business investment plans rebounded. That could be an indication that businesses are becoming more confident.
The Commerce Department says factory orders dipped 0.7 percent in January following an even bigger 2 percent decline December, which was a larger drop than first reported and the biggest decline since July. The weakness in both months was led by large declines in demand for commercial aircraft.
Orders for core capital goods, a proxy for business investment, rose 1.5 percent in January, recovering after a 1.6 percent drop in December.
Demand for durable goods, items expected to last at least three years, were down 1 percent while non-durable goods orders slipped 0.4 percent.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages fell after three weeks of rises, edging closer to historically low levels.
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate for the 30-year loan declined to 4.28 percent from 4.37 percent last week. The average for the 15-year mortgage fell to 3.32 percent from 3.39 percent.
A report released Tuesday by real estate data provider CoreLogic showed that U.S. home prices rose 0.9 percent in January after three months of declines, as a tight supply of properties likely supported prices despite slower sales.
Economists believe such outsize price gains might not continue much longer, however.
FRAMINGHAM, Mass. (AP) -- Staples will close 225 stores by the end of next year and the office-supply retailer is initiating a plan to save about $500 million annually by 2015,
The Framingham, Mass., company says nearly half of its sales are now generated online, so it will aggressively cut costs to become more efficient. The closings, all in North America, will help the company meet its pre-tax savings goal.
The store closings amount to about 10 percent of Staples Inc.'s worldwide total of 2,200. It has 1,500 locations in the United States.
The company's fourth quarter earnings more than doubled compared with last year, when the company booked a restructuring charge of more than $176 million.
NEW YORK (AP) -- Kroger is reporting a better-than-expected fourth-quarter profit as the nation's largest supermarket operator saw a key sales figure rise.
The Cincinnati-based company, which also operates Ralphs and Fry's, has fared better than its peers in adapting to a shifting supermarket landscape that is undergoing consolidation. In particular, supermarkets are facing stiffer competition from big-box retailers, specialty chains and other players.
For the period ending Feb. 1, Kroger Co. said sales at established locations rose 4.3 percent, excluding fuel.
It earned $422 million, or 81 cents per share. Excluding one-time items, it earned 78 cents per share, topping the 72 cent per share Wall Street expected.
A year ago, it earned $462 million, or 88 cents per share.
Revenue came in at $23.22 billion, above the $23.15 billion analysts expected.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Republican-controlled House has moved to block the president's plan to limit carbon pollution from new power plants.
It's an election-year strike at the White House. The House approved a bill Thursday targeting the power plant rule, as Republicans fight back against what they call the Obama administration's "war on coal."
President Barack Obama's proposal is a key part of his plan to fight climate change. It would set the first national limits on heat-trapping pollution from future power plants.
The House bill was approved 229-183. It would require the Environmental Protection Agency to set carbon emissions standards based on technology in use for at least a year.
Republicans and some coal-state Democrats say the EPA rule is based on carbon-capturing technology that does not currently exist.
The White House has threatened a veto.
OIL TRAINS-EMERGENCY ORDER
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) -- Federal regulators are further tightening testing requirements for companies that transport oil by rail after a spate of explosions caused by crude train derailments in the U.S. and Canada.
Thursday's action from the U.S. Department of Transportation builds on a Feb. 25 order that targeted oil shipments for more stringent testing.
Testing has long been required to gauge the volatility of oil and other hazardous liquids. But there were no standards on how frequently that had to be done.
Transportation officials are now specifying that within the "reasonable, recent past" companies must have tested the flash point and boiling point of crude to determine how likely it is to ignite.
Officials are telling companies not to re-label crude as some other volatile product in an attempt to get around testing.
KENTUCKY BRIDGE COLLAPSE-LAWSUIT
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Kentucky transportation officials are suing the crew of a cargo ship that struck and collapsed part of a bridge, causing millions in damage and diverting traffic for four months.
The state Transportation Cabinet says in a lawsuit moved to federal court this week that it spent at least $7 million to repair the Eggner's Ferry Bridge over the Tennessee River after the Delta Mariner struck it on Jan. 26, 2012. The cabinet's lawsuit says the ship's crew ignored warnings from the U.S. Coast Guard that the western Kentucky bridge's navigation lights were out.
A message left for the cargo ship owners, Seattle-based Foss Maritime, was not immediately returned Thursday.
The wreck caused a 322-foot section of the span to collapse.
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