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UNEMPLOYMENT

Aid applications drop to 7-month low

The number of people applying for unemployment benefits fell last week to the lowest level since early April, a sign that layoffs are easing and hiring may pick up.

Weekly applications dropped by 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 388,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. It was the fourth decline in five weeks.

The four-week average, a less volatile measure, dropped to 396,750. That’s the first time the average been below 400,000 in seven months.

Applications need to consistently drop below 375,000 to signal sustained job gains. They haven’t been that low since February.

TOYOTA

Production start marked at new plant

BLUE SPRINGS, MISS. | Toyota celebrated the start of Corolla production at its newest U.S. auto plant Thursday after a lengthy delay that the carmaker blamed on the weak economy.

The ceremony formally marked the recent start of production, almost five years after Toyota Motor Corp. announced in February 2007 that it would build a sprawling facility in Blue Springs, a tiny town in the sparsely populated hills of north Mississippi.

Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda, on hand for the ceremony, blamed the setback on the economy but said the time was now right for production.

It is the 14th plant in North America for the Japanese company.

CONNECTICUT

Utility CEO out amid post-storm criticism

HARTFORD | The president and chief operating officer of Connecticut Light & Power has resigned as the company continues to come under fire for its handling of power outages after last month’s snowstorm.

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