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Business in brief: Employers slash 17,000 jobs

Sat., Feb. 2, 2008

Nervous employers cut 17,000 jobs in January – the first such reduction in more than four years and a fresh sign that the economy is in danger of stalling.

The Labor Department’s report, released Friday, also showed that the unemployment rate dipped slightly to 4.9 percent, from 5 percent, as the civilian labor force shrank slightly.

Job losses were widespread. Manufacturers, construction firms and a variety of professional and business services eliminated jobs in January, reflecting the toll of the housing and credit debacles. The government cut jobs, too. All those cuts swamped job gains in education, health care, retailing and elsewhere.

Wage growth also slowed, another indication that employers are tightening their belts amid the economic slowdown.


Tax assistance, banana splits

Organizers of a Feb. 5 tax preparation session at the YWCA hope to encourage filers to split their refunds between checking and savings accounts by offering a suggestive treat – banana splits.

The free, three-hour event begins at 4 p.m. The ice cream treats will be served until 5:30 p.m.

Stephanie Blumhagen, an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer with the CASH Coalition, said this is the second year the Internal Revenue Service has allowed filers to split refunds to help build wealth.

Although getting more filers to save some of their refund is the goal, preparation services will be open to everyone, she said.

Blumhagen said filers should bring bank account information and routing numbers. The YWCA, 829 W. Broadway Ave., is one of 13 sites where volunteers are offering free tax preparation.

PLANO, Texas

Report says Icahn buying Penney shares

Shares of J.C. Penney Co. rose 2.4 percent Friday on a published report that activist billionaire investor Carl Icahn has quietly amassed a big stake in the department store operator.

The Wall Street Journal, citing people familiar with the matter, reported on its Web site Friday that Penney is now among Icahn’s five largest holdings, which could place it in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Icahn’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Penney said it “does not comment on rumors or speculation.”

Penney shares gained $1.15 to $48.50.


Sleep like a log at Beatles hotel

What could be better after a hard day’s sightseeing?

Visitors to Liverpool, birthplace of the Beatles, can rest their heads in the Lennon or McCartney suites at the Fab Four-themed Hard Days Night Hotel, which opened Friday.

More than 45 years after John, Paul, George and Ringo emerged from Liverpool’s tiny, sweaty clubs to conquer the world, the Beatles industry is key to this battered-but-proud city’s attempt to transform itself from fading commercial hub to thriving cultural hotbed.

The 110-room Hard Days Night Hotel hopes to be its newest attraction.

“It’s stunning, spectacular,” said Julia Baird, John Lennon’s half-sister, after being shown around the $1,300-a-night penthouse suite named for her brother. “It’s like Liverpool. Outside it hasn’t changed, but inside there’s rocketing change.”

A smart, four-star establishment housed within a 19th century mercantile building, the hotel aims to provide everything a Beatles fan could desire – from the Yellow Submarine jukebox in the lobby to the rare photographs on the walls – while also catering to corporate travelers and tourists.

From staff and wire reports


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