- - Tuesday, April 19, 2011

LABOR

Unemployment falls in two-thirds of states

The unemployment rate fell in two-thirds of the nation’s states last month, the latest evidence that the strengthening economy is encouraging many employers to boost hiring.

The Labor Department said Tuesday that the unemployment rate dropped in 34 states in March. That’s the largest number of states to record a decline since June. The rate rose in seven states and was unchanged in nine and the District.

Employers hired more workers in 38 states. A government survey of employer payrolls found only 12 states plus the District lost jobs last month, the fewest since October.

Nationally, the unemployment rate fell in March to a two-year low of 8.8 percent, and private employers added more than 200,000 jobs for the second consecutive month. That’s the largest two-month hiring total in four years.

HOUSING

New-home construction increased in March

Builders broke ground on more new homes last month, giving the weak housing market a slight boost at the start of the spring buying season.

Home construction rose 7.2 percent in March from February to a seasonally adjusted 549,000 units, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. Building permits, an indicator of future construction, rose 11.2 percent after hitting a five-decade low in February.

Still, the building pace is far below the 1.2 million units a year that economists consider healthy. And March’s improvement came after construction fell in February to its second-lowest level on record dating back more than a half-century.

ADVERTISING

Hoover pulls ads over canceled soaps

NEW YORK | A Hoover executive who says his wife and mother are big fans of two soap operas canceled by ABC is yanking the vacuum-makers’ ads from the network in protest.

Hoover’s vice president of marketing, Brian Kirkendall, announced on the company’s Facebook page that the ads will be lifted Friday, if not sooner. More than 11,000 people said they “liked” the action, many writing messages of support.

ABC said last week it was canceling “All My Children” and “One Life to Live,” leaving “General Hospital” as its only soap. ABC had no comment Tuesday on Hoover’s action.

Mr. Kirkendall did not respond to calls seeking comment. He wrote that Hoover is also setting up an email address for fans of the shows to voice their displeasure.

TECHNOLOGY

Apple sued over in-game buys by kids

NEW YORK | Apple is facing a lawsuit from a Pennsylvania man whose 9-year-old daughter racked up $200 buying “Zombie Toxin” and other game items on an iPod.

The lawsuit seeks class-action status, saying Garen Meguerian of Phoenixville is among many people with bill shock after children went on buying sprees in iPhone, iPad and iPod games.

An Associated Press story in December highlighted the issue. In many cases, it appeared that children bought the items without knowing they were spending real money. ITunes didn’t ask for a password for in-game purchases for 15 minutes after it had been entered for any reason.

Apple tightened its password policy with a software update in March. It had no comment on the federal lawsuit filed last week in San Francisco, which CNET reported on earlier.

MISSISSIPPI

Lockheed Martin creates 350 jobs

JACKSON, Miss. | Lockheed Martin Corp. said Tuesday it will open a technology-support center this September in the Jackson suburb of Clinton, Miss., creating 350 new jobs.

Emily Simone, spokeswoman for the Bethesda, Md.-based company, told the Associated Press that the mission-support center will serve all of Lockheed Martin’s federal customers.

The company will put the center in part of the former corporate headquarters of WorldCom, the telecommunications company that went into bankruptcy in 2002. The former WorldCom campus, with several buildings, is now called the South Pointe Business Park and is just off Interstate 20.

Lockheed Martin said it plans to start recruiting technical and customer-service employees for the Clinton site in May.

AUTOMOBILE INDUSTRY

Toyota extends production cuts

DETROIT | Toyota Motor Corp. has extended production cuts at its North American factories into early June as it struggles to deal with parts shortages caused by the earthquake that hit Japan.

The moves announced Tuesday raise the likelihood of widespread model shortages at Toyota dealerships well into the summer buying season. But the company promised no layoffs and said it would be ready when parts start flowing again.

Toyota said that production will be suspended in North America on Mondays and Fridays from April 26 through June 3. During the same period, plants will run at half-capacity on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

In addition, U.S. production will be suspended the week of May 30 after the Memorial Day holiday.

From wire dispatches and staff reports