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In brief: Jobless applications rise but hiring remains steady

WASHINGTON – U.S. unemployment benefit applications rose 16,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 360,000, although the level remains consistent with steady hiring.

The Labor Department says the less volatile four-week average increased 6,000 to 351,750.

The weekly applications data can be volatile in early July because some automakers briefly shut down their factories to prepare for new models and many schools close. Those factors can create a temporary spike in layoffs.

The broader trend has been favorable. Applications have declined steadily this year, evidence that companies are laying off fewer workers. That’s coincided with acceleration in job gains. In the past six months, employers have added an average of 202,000 jobs a month. That’s up from an average of 180,000 in the previous six months.

Portland firm moving plant from China to NY

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Disposable flatware maker Trellis Earth Products is moving its manufacturing operations from China to upstate New York, where it will create 189 jobs.

Trellis, with headquarters in Portland, plans to break ground on an $8 million, 80,000-square-foot facility in the Rochester Technology Park by the end of the summer.

It will make more than 50 million forks, knives and spoons every month, as well as school lunch trays and plates. The company uses an eco-friendly bio-plastic blend that’s mostly plant starch.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office says Empire State Development will provide $1.5 million in tax credits and a $500,000 grant. Monroe County is committing up to $500,000 in low-interest financing, $50,000 for training and equipment rebates and up to $300,000 in an interest subsidy.

Retailers report strong gains for June

NEW YORK – June sales heated up for stores, in a sign that Americans likely will continue to spend during the important back-to-school shopping season.

U.S. retailers reported their strongest sales gains since January, as shoppers, enticed by warm weather and an improving economy, took advantage of summer discounts.

Revenue at stores open at least a year – an industry measure of a retailer’s health - rose 4.1 percent in June compared with the same month a year ago, according to a preliminary tally of 13 retailers by the International Council of Shopping Centers. The mall trade group had expected an increase of 3 to 3.5 percent.

The data, released Thursday, offers positive signs for the back-to-school season, which is the second-biggest shopping period behind the winter holidays. June is when stores clear out summer merchandise to make room for goods for fall.

June’s performance was its best performance since January’s 4.5 percent gain and showed a gradual improvement since early this spring.