Business Notebook

January 17, 2014 

Nation & World

Labor report: Fewer sought jobless benefits last week

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell 2,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 326,000, a sign that layoffs are weighing less on the job market and economic growth. The Labor Department said Thursday that the less volatile four-week average dropped 13,500 to 335,000. More than 4.7 million Americans collected benefits at the end of last year. The figure has declined almost 1.2 million over the past 12 months. But that number is poised drop by another 1.35 million in upcoming weeks because a special federal program that expired last month and is starting to affect recipients.

Prices to fly go up again

The price to board an airliner in the United States has risen for the fourth straight year, making it increasingly expensive to fly. The average domestic roundtrip ticket, including tax, reached $363.42 last year, up more than $7 from the prior year, according to an Associated Press analysis of travel data collected from millions of flights throughout the country. The 2 percent increase outpaced inflation, which stood at 1.5 percent. Airfares have risen nearly 12 percent since their low in the depths of the Great Recession in 2009, when adjusted for inflation, the analysis showed. Ticket prices have increased as airlines eliminated unprofitable routes, packed more passengers into planes and merged.

Recent retail breach may have affected more than just Target

The security breach that hit Target Corp. during the holiday season appears to have been part of a broader and highly sophisticated scam that potentially affected a large number of retailers – some of whom might not even know they are infected – according to a report published by a global cyber intelligence firm that works with the U.S. Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security. The report, made public Thursday by iSight Partners of Dallas, offers more insight into the breach at Target, which affected 40 million credit and debit card accounts and led to the theft of personal information of as many as 70 million customers. The report said that a malicious program vacuuming personal data from terminals at store check-out stations was “almost certainly derived” from BlackPOS, a crude but effective piece of software that contained malware scripts with Russian origins. Last week, Neiman Marcus said thieves stole some of its customers’ payment information and made unauthorized charges over the holidays.

Farmers plan to cut back on corn, bump up soybean acreage

Farmers spent the last few years planting as much corn as they could, but with its price half what it was a couple of years ago, many growers are considering shifting acreage back to soybeans. A December survey of more than 1,600 producers by Farm Futures, an agriculture-focused magazine and website publisher, indicated farmers intend to cut corn planting to 92 million acres, a 3 percent reduction from last year, and boost soybeans about 7.6 percent over last year to 82.3 million acres.

The Associated Press contributed.

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