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Wednesday, 25 September 2013 15:31

USPS seeks 3-cent increase for first-class mail

WASHINGTON (AP) - The financially ailing Postal Service is seeking a 3-cent increase in the cost of mailing a letter - and that would raise the price of a first-class stamp to 49 cents. The chairman of the postal Board of Governors, Mickey Barnett, cites the "precarious financial condition" of the agency and the uncertain prospects for postal overhaul legislation in Congress. The agency expects to lose $6 billion this year. Wednesday's request for the increase in stamp prices must be approved by the independent Postal Regulatory Commission. The Postal Service said it would ask for adjustment to bulk mail rates in a filing with the commission Thursday. No details were immediately provided. Media and marketing businesses say a big increase in rates could hurt them and lower postal volume and revenues. 

Friday, 20 September 2013 14:16

Target to hire fewer seasonal holiday workers

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Target plans to hire about 70,000 seasonal workers for the critical holiday shopping season, down about 20 percent from a year ago. The discounter is aiming to be more efficient in its hiring practices. The move to hire 18,000 fewer temporary holiday workers versus last year's 88,000 comes as the Minneapolis-based chain saw that its own permanent employees wanted to get first dibs on working extra hours for the holiday season. Target says it also wants to better respond to the peaks and valleys of customer traffic, which have become more pronounced for many stores as shoppers time their buying for when they believe they can get the best deals. 

DETROIT (AP) - A new draft report prepared by state officials finds that Michigan's energy providers are on track to meet their 2015 renewable energy mandate, but are capable of more. Existing law sets a 10 percent minimum that must be met by 2015. According to the report released Friday by the state Public Service Commission and the Michigan Energy Office, providers should hit that target in two years, but that 15 percent by 2020 and 30 percent by 2035 "are achievable." Voters rejected a 2012 ballot initiative that would have ordered utilities to generate 25 percent of their power from solar, wind and other renewables by 2025. Gov. Rick Snyder has said his administration will spend time studying whether a more ambitious standard is needed. 

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder says more than 1,000 unemployed Michigan residents have been placed in full-time jobs through the state's Community Ventures program since its launch a year ago. The Michigan Economic Development Corp. started the pilot program in October 2012. It connects pre-screened unemployed residents of Flint, Saginaw, Pontiac and Detroit with companies willing to hire and provide opportunities for long-term employment. Since its launch, Snyder's office says 63 employers have committed to the program. In all, there have been 1,076 participants. Under the program, the MEDC also works with community partners to provide supportive services to participants. Services include job coaching, transportation, workforce readiness, child care and adult education.

WASHINGTON (AP) - The GOP-controlled House is cruising toward a vote to gut President Barack Obama's health care plan as part of a temporary funding bill to prevent a partial government shutdown on Oct. 1. While raising the possibility of a government closure, the latest GOP plan is actually aimed at avoiding one. GOP leaders are looking to shift the fight over health care to even more important legislation required to prevent the government from defaulting on its financial obligations. Even top advocates of the strategy to defund what they call "Obamacare" by attaching it to a stopgap government funding bill acknowledge it has no future in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Senate D emocrats have the votes to strip off the health care provision and kick the stopgap measure right back to the House.

Thursday, 19 September 2013 10:35

Petroleum supplier shuts, affecting prepaid sales

MERRILL, Mich. (AP) - Authorities say the shutdown of a Michigan petroleum supplier has left residents and businesses out $2 million to $3 million that they prepaid for home heating oil and diesel fuel. The Gratiot County sheriff's department, the state attorney general's office and others are investigating the closure of Miles Petroleum Co. of Merrill. Sheriff Doug Wright says discounts were offered to customers if they prepaid fuel costs for the coming year. Company President Barry Marlow told WNEM-TV that customers were notified recently by mail and it's uncertain whether they would get refunds. No charges have been filed. Wright tells The Morning Sun of Mount Pleasant that the investigation could take months. The closure didn't affect propane sales. The Midland Daily News reports Mount Pleasant-based Coyne Propane bought the company's propane arm.

WASHINGTON (AP) - The U.S. current account trade deficit narrowed in the April-June quarter to the lowest level in nearly three years. The Commerce Department says the current account deficit fell to $98.9 billion in the second quarter, a drop of 5.7 percent from the first quarter deficit of $104.9 billion. The spring deficit was the lowest since a $93.8 billion imbalance in the third quarter of 2009, a period when the Great Recession had cut into demand for foreign goods. The current account is the country's broadest measure of trade. It tracks not only the sale of goods and services but also investment flows. The improvement in the second quarter represented a drop in the deficit for goods and increases in the surpluses on services and investment income.

Thursday, 19 September 2013 10:33

US unemployment benefit applications rise to 309K

WASHINGTON (AP) - The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits rose 15,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 309,000. But the data was distorted for the second straight week by reporting delays. The Labor Department says the level is only slightly above the previous week's 294,000, the lowest in six years.  Applications plummeted two weeks ago when California and Nevada were unable to report all their applications of computer upgrades in both states. A government spokesman says those states reported all the applications that came in last week. The broader trend in applications has been favorable, signaling fewer layoffs. The less volatile four-week average fell 7,000 to 314,750, the lowest in nearly six years. But backlogged applications from two weeks ago may elevate the figures in the coming weeks, he said.

Thursday, 19 September 2013 10:33

Postmaster says USPS may need emergency rate hike

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Postal Service may need an emergency rate increase to stay afloat. That's according to Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe (DAHN'-uh-hoo), who's testifying before a Senate committee. Donahue says the agency's cash balance next month likely will cover only five days of its average daily expenses. The panel is looking at a plan to fix the agency's finances, including ending Saturday delivery and changing the way retiree health care costs are calculated. Without help from Congress, the agency expects its multibillion-dollar annual losses to worsen. Media and marketing firms that depend on postal services say a broad rate hike could hurt their business. The independent Postal Regulatory Commission must approve any emergency postal rate increase request.

Thursday, 19 September 2013 10:31

US home sales reached 6 1/2 year high in August

WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S. home sales rose last month to the highest level since February 2007 as buyers rushed to close deals before interest rates rise further. The National Association of Realtors says sales of previously-occupied homes rose 1.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.48 million in August. That level is consistent with a healthy market. August sales reflect contracts signed in June and July, when mortgage rates were rising steadily. The Realtors' group cautioned that buyer traffic dropped off significantly in August. That means sales could slow in the months ahead. The Realtors forecast that sales will average 5.2 million in 2014. Home prices rose as the supply of available homes remained tight. There were 2.25 million homes for sale last month, down 6 percent from a year earlier.

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