- - Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A jump in sales of previously occupied homes and further gains in home construction suggest the U.S. housing recovery is gaining momentum.

The pair of reports Wednesday follows other signs of steady progress in the housing market after years of stagnation. New-home sales are up, builder confidence has reached its highest level in more than six years and increases in home prices appear to be sustainable.

Sales and construction rates are still below healthy levels, economists caution. But the improvement has been steady.

CALIFORNIA


First leg of high-speed rail approved by feds

SACRAMENTO — The Federal Railroad Administration gave its approval Wednesday for construction on the first phase of California’s high-speed rail system, clearing the final technical hurdle for construction to start next year on a 65-mile span from Merced to Fresno.

The decision supports the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s so-called “hybrid alternative,” which state officials say is the least costly approach and the one that is least harmful to the environment. Rail authority Chief Executive Officer Jeff Morales said the federal decision will allow the project to break ground next year.

UNIONS

Verizon, unions reach tentative contract

NEW YORK — Verizon and unions representing 43,000 employees have reached tentative, three-year agreements covering job security, retirement and other issues.

As the agreements were being signed Wednesday, Verizon Communications Inc. called them “fair and balanced.”

The pact comes more than a year after Verizon workers took part in a two-week strike amid tense negotiations. The company and the unions had disagreed on health care benefits, pensions and work rules.

The unions involved are the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

The Communications Workers of America union, which represents 34,000 Verizon workers from Virginia to Massachusetts, said the previous contract expired in August 2011. The union says the new contract preserves existing job security language prohibiting layoffs for those hired before 2003. It also preserves the pension plan for current workers.

CALIFORNIA

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