September 20, 2012 in Business

Washington’s jobless rate up slightly from July to August

From Wire Reports

OLYMPIA – Washington state’s unemployment rate increased slightly to 8.6 percent in August, and the state saw a net loss of 1,100 jobs from the previous month, officials announced Wednesday.

The numbers released by the Employment Security Department show that the August unemployment rate increased from the July rate of 8.5 percent, the second consecutive month the state has seen an increase. The national unemployment rate is currently 8.1 percent.

There was some good news in the state’s construction industry, which saw a net gain of 1,900 jobs last month, the most of any sector in the state. Since August 2011, the construction industry has seen a net gain of 3,900 jobs.

Even with the increase, there is still “a long way to go to get construction to a much healthier level,” said Joe Elling, chief labor economist for the state’s Employment Security Department.

At its peak in 2007, construction employment was at 208,000 jobs; now the level is down to about 140,000, Elling said.

The overall monthly job losses are a turnaround from July, which had seen an estimated gain of 5,900 jobs, a number that was revised up from 5,000 since the last employment report.

The employment estimates for the leisure-and-hospitality industry and the wholesale-trade industry showed unusually large losses for August for the second year in a row, losing a combined 4,900 jobs from July to August.

Even with the losses, jobs in the sectors didn’t change significantly, officials said. They cite “seasonal adjustments” of monthly job numbers that are applied to reflect seasonal variations in employment, like summer season or holiday hiring.

A seasonally adjusted “gain” is reflected when an industry adds more jobs or doesn’t eliminate as many jobs as expected based on prior employment reports. A loss is when cuts are deeper than expected, or if normal hiring doesn’t occur.

Elling stressed not to read too much into the month-to-month changes, noting that any measurement error in the two surveys used by the department “can have a big impact.”

“There’s been positive developments when we look at where we’re at in respect to employment to where we were a year ago,” he said.

Gates still ranks as richest man

NEW YORK – Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates remains the nation’s richest man by far, as the tech and philanthropy giant took the top spot on the Forbes 400 list for the 19th year running, with a net worth of $66 billion.

Investor Warren Buffett, the head of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., again took second with $46 billion, while Oracle Corp. co-founder Larry Ellison remains third with $41 billion, and brothers Charles and David Koch, co-owners of Koch Industries Inc., tied for fourth with $31 billion.

Forbes said the rich mainly got richer in 2012, with net worth rising for 241 members of its list and shrinking for only 66. Rising stock prices, a rebound in real estate values and rare art prices helped.

There are 45 women on the list, up from 42 a year ago, including Oprah Winfrey at No. 151.

Survey: Five Guys a fan favorite

LOS ANGELES – Five Guys Burgers and Fries topped a new survey of favorite burger chains, leaving bigger chains such as McDonald’s and Burger King in the dust.

Market Force Information questioned 7,600 consumers, calculated the fan favorite based on total votes and then factored in the number of locations for each chain.

In every region, Five Guys led the list. Overall, In-N-Out was second, followed by Fuddruckers, A&W and Smashburger.

Dairy Queen ranked last in the group of 16 chains considered. Burger King, Hardee’s, McDonald’s and Jack in the Box rounded out the bottom five.

Comcast discounting Internet

PHILADELPHIA – After a slow start, Comcast Corp. says it has enrolled 100,000 poor families nationwide into its discounted Internet program.

Internet Essentials – offering Internet service at a 79 percent discount, or $9.95 a month, to families with school-age children – remains a work in progress, Comcast says.

In early 2011, Comcast volunteered to offer Internet Essentials in its negotiations with the Federal Communications Commission to acquire control of NBCUniversal.

The program is designed to address the low adoption rate of broadband service in low-income neighborhoods – a result partly of the cost of an Internet service and a computer. In Philadelphia, for example, Comcast’s least-expensive stand-alone Internet service costs $47 a month, which includes the modem rental, a company spokesman said.

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