- - Sunday, October 9, 2011

UNEMPLOYMENT

103,000 jobs added, but jobless rate unchanged

The jobs crisis isn’t getting worse. But it isn’t getting much better, either.

The economy added just enough jobs last month to ease fears of a new recession. But hiring is still too weak to bring down unemployment, which has been stuck around 9 percent for more than two years.

The nation added 103,000 jobs in September, an improvement from the month before, the Labor Department said Friday. But the total includes 45,000 Verizon workers who were rehired after going on strike and were counted as job gains.

Even setting aside that technicality, the job gains weren’t enough to get the economy out of its soft patch. It takes about 125,000 jobs a month just to keep up with population growth. For September, the unemployment rate stayed stuck at 9.1 percent.

ENERGY

Survey: Gas prices decline, down 13 cents in two weeks

CAMARILLO, Calif. — The bellwether Lundberg Survey says the average U.S. price of a gallon of gasoline has dropped 13 cents in the past two weeks.

The survey, which was released, Sunday puts the price of a gallon of regular at $3.42, down 13 cents from two weeks earlier and down 25 cents in the past month.

Costs have seen similar drops in midgrade, now at an average of $3.58 a gallon, and premium at $3.70. Diesel fell seven cents to $3.85 a gallon.

Of the cities surveyed, Albuquerque, N.M., had the nation’s lowest average price for gas at $3.07, and perennial price leader San Francisco had the highest at $3.81. In California, the lowest average price was $3.71 in Fresno.

UNIONS

Atlantic City casino workers fear massive givebacks

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Workers in contract talks with Atlantic City’s casinos fear losing something a lot worse than money: their place in the middle class.

With the gambling halls seeking steep pay cuts, plus contributions to health care and benefit costs, service workers at the casinos say they fear losing a middle-class lifestyle if the cuts go through.

Some already have seen their pay cut steeply. That has made them give up things like cable TV, Internet, dinners out, movies and even air conditioning. The casinos say they need concessions to keep Atlantic City alive in the face of growing competition from casinos in neighboring states.

Contracts between the Unite-Here union and 10 of the 11 casinos expired last month.

TECHNOLOGY

Sprint Nextel: No more Clearwire devices after 2012

NEW YORK — Sprint Nextel Corp. said Friday that it will stop selling phones and other devices compatible with Clearwire Corp.’s current network at the end of next year, after it switches on its own higher-speed, fourth-generation data network.

Sprint is Clearwire’s largest customer and majority owner, but doesn’t control it. Phones labeled “Sprint 4G” use Clearwire’s network today.

Clearwire’s stock fell 65 cents, or 32 percent, to $1.40 in afternoon trading Friday. Earlier in the day, the shares revisited an all-time low of $1.32 hit in August.

EUROPE

Fitch downgrades Italy, Spain debt ratings

ROME — The Fitch Ratings agency downgraded its sovereign credit rating for Italy and Spain on Friday and said its long-term outlook for both countries was negative, citing high debt and poor prospects for growth.

Separately, Fitch also said it was keeping Portugal’s debt rating on watch for a possible downgrade, with a decision due by the end of the year. Portugal was the third and latest eurozone country to receive an international bailout package after Greece and Ireland.

The reports are a blow to Europe’s hopes of containing the debt crisis. Italy and Spain have the eurozone’s third- and fourth-largest economies and are widely considered too expensive to rescue.

Fitch downgraded Italy’s creditworthiness from AA- to A+, citing high public debt, low growth and the “politically technical and complex” solution necessary to fix Italy’s financial ills and earn back the trust of investors. Fitch cut Spain’s sovereign debt rating by two notches to AA- from AA+, citing increased risks from the eurozone financial crisis as well as high debt in regional governments and weakening growth prospects.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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