Weekly jobless claims increase
The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits jumped to the highest level in two months, although the figures were skewed in part by Hurricane Isaac. Applications increased by 15,000 to a seasonally adjusted 382,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. That's up from 367,000 the previous week. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, increased for the fourth straight week to 375,000. Isaac made landfall as Category 1 hurricane on Aug. 28 in southeastern Louisiana and was later downgraded to a tropical storm. It disrupted work in nine states and boosted applications by roughly 9,000, Labor officials said. Applications for unemployment benefits reflect the pace of layoffs.
Gas drives up wholesale prices
A sharp rise in gasoline costs drove up wholesale prices last month by the most in more than three years. But outside energy and food, price gains were mild. The producer price index, which measures price changes before they reach the consumer, jumped 1.7 percent in August, the Labor Department said. The increase was mostly because gas prices soared 13.6 percent, the biggest gain in three years. Food prices rose 0.9 percent, driven up by steep increases in the cost of eggs and dairy products. Excluding food and gas, core wholesale prices rose only 0.2 percent. Food prices are likely to rise further in the coming months as the Midwest drought has made corn, soybeans and other grains much more expensive.
More airlines raising fares
Led by Southwest Airlines, several airlines are raising prices again. Southwest raised fares Wednesday by $10 per round trip on about 10 percent of its routes. United Airlines expanded the increase later in the day to cover most of its U.S. flights. "We raised fares to cover the increasing cost of doing business," United spokeswoman Megan McCarthy said Thursday. Delta Air Lines said it matched United's price hike. American Airlines said that it raised prices on some routes, US Airways and JetBlue Airways said they matched Southwest's increase, and Virgin America eventually matched the broader United increase. A Delta-led attempt to raise prices failed last week, a sign that airlines could be worried about filling seats in a sluggish economy. But Southwest carries more passengers than any airline within the U.S., and fare increases often stick or fail depending on whether Southwest goes along.
English-only lawsuit dismissed
A Nebraska woman who says she was fired for speaking Spanish at work failed to convince a federal judge that was true. The Lincoln Journal Star reports that U.S. District Judge John Gerrard dismissed Rocio Reyes' lawsuit against Pharma Chemie Inc. this week. PCI said it created its English-only policy to promote efficiency and safety. The company said that when managers spoke to Reyes in English, she often would not respond, so it wasn't clear if she had heard the directions. Gerrard said Reyes failed to prove PCI's policy was discriminatory.
Germany signs off on EU aid
Germany's president signed off Thursday on the eurozone's permanent $645.5 billion rescue fund and Europe's budget-discipline pact, bringing the continent's financial firewall a step closer to completion. President Joachim Gauck signed the legislation a day after Germany's Federal Constitutional Court rejected calls for an injunction blocking the measures, his office said. However, the court did insist that Germany fulfill some conditions -- notably, ensuring there are legal guarantees that Parliament must vote on any further increases in Germany's contributions to the fund, the European Stability Mechanism. Germany is liable for about 27 percent of the European rescue program.-- AP