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More jobs recovered; jobless rate the same

Washington’s statewide jobless rate in February remained 7.5 percent, the third month in a row at that level, the Employment Security Department reported Wednesday.

Overall, the state added roughly 4,000 jobs in February; that’s close to the monthly average for the past six months, according to a department news release.

County unemployment rates will be published next week.

Statewide, industries seeing the most job growth in February were education and health services; manufacturing; professional/business services; and wholesale trade.

Industries showing the most job losses were construction; leisure and hospitality; and transportation, warehousing and utilities.

Freddie sues big banks, alleges rate rigging

WASHINGTON – Freddie Mac has sued 15 big international banks, including JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Citigroup, accusing them of rigging a key interest rate and causing huge losses for the government-controlled mortgage giant.

Freddie filed the lawsuit today in federal court in Alexandria, Va. It names the banks that set the London interbank offered rate, known as LIBOR, which provides the basis for trillions of dollars in contracts around the world, including mortgages, bonds and consumer loans.

A U.S. watchdog has found that Freddie and its larger sibling Fannie Mae together may have lost more than $3 billion on their investments from banks’ rate-rigging.

The banks schemed together daily to manipulate and hold down the value of LIBOR from August 2007 through at least May 2010, Freddie alleges in its suit. They “acted collectively to suppress … LIBOR, both to hide their institutions’ financial problems and to boost their profits,” the suit says.

Wal-Mart widening ‘Scan & Go’ checkout

NEW YORK – Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is expanding a test of a new checkout program that allows shoppers to scan items with their smartphones while they’re in the aisles and then pay at self-checkout terminals.

The world’s largest retailer launched what it calls its “Scan & Go” program late last year in about 70 stores in Atlanta and in the Bentonville, Ark., area, where the retailer is based. It is now testing the program in more than 200 stores in markets including Portland and Seattle.

Starbucks to extend its points to retail in May

NEW YORK – Starbucks is offering a novel perk to get more people to sign up for its loyalty program: letting members earn points when they buy bags of its coffee at supermarkets.

The Seattle-based company said at its annual meeting Wednesday that the new perk will roll out in May. Adam Brotman, Starbucks’ chief digital officer, noted during a presentation that the loyalty program is important because it helps the company collect “good customer insight” that can be used to better tailor online advertising.

Starbucks Corp. had announced the move to let customers earn points through branded retail products late last year but hadn’t said when it would be available.

To earn points, members would have to sign onto their accounts online and enter a code on the Starbucks coffee bag.

The program will expand in the fall to other Starbucks products sold in supermarkets. The company hasn’t specified which other products will be eligible, but it also sells bottled Frappuccinos and Tazo tea bags at grocery stores.