WASHINGTON – Superstorm Sandy drove the number of people seeking unemployment benefits up to a seasonally adjusted 439,000 last week, the highest level in 18 months.
The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly applications increased by 78,000 mostly because a large number of applications were filed in states damaged by the storm. People can claim unemployment benefits if their workplaces close and they don’t get paid.
The storm has affected the claims data for the past two weeks and may distort reports for another two weeks, the department has said.
The four-week average of applications, a less volatile number, increased to 383,750.
Global Fund sacks internal watchdog
GENEVA – A $23 billion health fund trying to restore its image announced Thursday that it fired its top internal watchdog, whose office uncovered millions in financial losses that led some donors to withhold funding.
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria said in a statement its board had sacked Inspector General John Parsons “after a careful review of his performance, which was found to be unsatisfactory.”
The fund was shaken after Associated Press articles last year reported on the millions of dollars in financial losses revealed by Parsons’ office.
The inspector general’s office is supposed to function independently. It was created in 2005 at the urging of the fund’s biggest donor, the United States, which has contributed $7.3 billion to date.
The board held a contentious closed-door session with Parsons on Wednesday then deliberated into the night after he stormed out.
Separately, the fund’s board chose as its new executive director Mark Dybul, a doctor who served as U.S. global AIDS coordinator to former President George W. Bush.
Before joining the Global Fund in 2007, Parsons, a British citizen, had served as a director at U.N. agencies UNESCO and UNICEF. He headed Britain’s National Audit Office from 1989 to 1996. He could not immediately be reached for comment.
The Geneva-based fund was set up in 2002 as a new way to coordinate world efforts against the diseases and to speed up emergency funds from wealthy nations and donors to the places hardest hit. It currently pays for the treatment of around half the developing world’s AIDS sufferers.
Automakers expecting spike in truck sales
Chrysler said Thursday that it’s adding a third shift with 1,000 jobs to a Ram pickup plant outside Detroit. It also plans to add 250 jobs to a Detroit engine plant in 2014.
Pickup truck sales are expected to spike as home construction increases. New-home starts reached their fastest pace in four years in September. Trucks are also averaging a record 10 years old, so car companies think there will be demand to replace them.
Chrysler’s redesigned Ram just went on sale and GM will have new trucks next year, which could fuel demand.