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Economy Briefs

- - Thursday, November 17, 2011

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.

Northeast Utilities officials say Jeffrey Butler resigned Thursday and that they are launching a national search for his successor.

Mr. Butler and others at CL&P have been criticized by customers, state officials and members of Connecticut's congressional delegation for perceived delays in restoring power after last month's storm.

More than 800,000 customers lost power, and some were out for up to 10 days.

RECALL

Smucker recalls jars of chunky peanut butter

ORRVILLE, OHIO | J.M. Smucker Co. is recalling thousands of 16-ounce jars of its Smucker's Natural Peanut Butter Chunky because of possible salmonella contamination.

The company says the jars covered in the recall would have been purchased in the last week or so. They have "Best If Used By" dates of Aug. 3, 2012, and Aug. 4, 2012, plus the production codes 1307004 and 1308004.

Smucker says 3,000 jars are being recalled from stores. Another 16,000 had never left warehouses.

Salmonella is bacteria resulting in fever, cramps and diarrhea that lasts for several days and can require hospitalization. Smucker says no illnesses have been reported.

The product was distributed in several states including Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.