Business Highlights

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO


Job-seekers return at fastest pace since before recession

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans are flooding back into the job market at the fastest pace since before the Great Recession, encouraged by steady hiring and some signs of higher pay.

The flow has halted, at least temporarily, one of the economy's more discouraging trends: the sharp decline in the percentage of people either working or looking for work. That figure fell last year to a four-decade low.

The pickup since then suggests that nearly seven years after the recession ended, Americans are finally more confident that they can find jobs.


$15 minimum-wage movement sets sights on more states

NEW YORK (AP) — California and New York — where almost 1 in 5 Americans live — are on their way to raising their minimum wage to $15 an hour, and the activists who spearheaded those efforts are now setting their sights on other similarly liberal, Democratic-led states.

Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington are among the states with active "Fight for $15" efforts, and even economic experts who oppose the increased rate see it gaining momentum.

The idea faces headwinds in more conservative and rural areas activists believe the movement is picking up steam.


Automakers report best US March sales in 16 years

DETROIT (AP) — Most major automakers reported U.S. sales gains last month as stronger employment figures and consumer confidence drove the auto industry to its best March in 16 years.

But the sales growth rate appeared to be slowing as brisk SUV and truck sales barely offset falling car sales. Some automakers had to raise discounts on cars or peddle more of them to rental companies. That could mean better deals for car buyers down the road.


Apple still strong at 40, but are best years behind it?

CUPERTINO, Calif. (AP) — Apple turned 40 on Friday, and it's a very different company from the audacious startup launched in a Silicon Valley garage in 1976.

Today, the maker of iPhones and Mac computers is the world's most valuable public corporation, with 100,000 employees and a new, multi-billion dollar headquarters in Cupertino, California, set to open next year. Despite its astounding financials — Apple reported $53 billion in profit on $233 billion in sales last year — some critics have suggested Apple's best years are behind it, as it has struggled to come up with new products and match the phenomenal success of recent years.


US stocks jump after solid March jobs report

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks climbed Friday after the government said job growth continued at a strong clip in March. Makers of consumer goods and household products rose, and health care companies rebounded. The solid employment report helped U.S. stocks stay out of a steep global decline.

Early in the day stocks tumbled along with the prices of oil and precious metals, but they recovered in the afternoon and finished at their highest levels of the day. The Labor Department's monthly jobs report showed that employers added 215,000 jobs last month, a sign the economy isn't slowing down. Energy companies took big losses. Hotel companies and airlines both tumbled.


US consumer sentiment slips in March to five-month low

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. consumer sentiment slipped last month to lowest level since October with Americans worried about the country's economic outlook, the University of Michigan said Friday.

The university's index of consumer sentiment dipped to 91 in March, from 91.7 in February. Richard Curtin, chief economist of the Michigan surveys, said consumers' dim view of the economy offset improvement in their own finances. Last month's reading was the lowest since the index registered 90 in October. A year earlier, it stood at 93.

Signs of economic weakness and rising gasoline prices have taken a toll on spirits.


US manufacturing grows in March, ending 5 months of declines

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. manufacturers expanded in March, ending a five-month streak of declining factory activity.

The Institute for Supply Management said Friday that its manufacturing index rose to 51.8 last month from 49.5 in February. Any reading above 50 signals growth.

The increase suggests that U.S. factories are adapting to the turmoil abroad, where a stronger dollar and weakening economies in China, Japan and elsewhere have hurt sales. But the details of the survey-based report were somewhat uneven. New orders and production improved, but the measure of employment at manufacturers contracted in a sign that factories are letting workers go.


Orders for lower-priced Tesla hit 198,000

HAWTHORNE, Calif. (AP) — Demand for Tesla Motors' new lower-priced electric car surprised even the company's CEO Friday as 198,000 people plunked down $1,000 deposits to reserve their vehicles.

"Definitely going to need to rethink production planning," a surprised CEO Elon Musk said on his Twitter feed.

Musk unveiled the car Thursday night at a design studio near Los Angeles. It starts at $35,000 and has a range of 215 miles per charge, which is far more than most people drive each day.

The orders came from across the globe even though the car isn't scheduled for sale until late in 2017.


Companies reconsidering North Carolina over LGBT rights

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory met with gay-rights advocates bearing a letter signed by more than 100 corporate executives urging him to repeal the nation's first state law limiting the bathroom options for transgender people.

The law also excludes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from anti-discrimination protections, and blocks municipalities from adopting their own anti-discrimination and living wage rules.

The governor "appreciated the opportunity to sit down and deal with these complex issues through conversation and dialogue as opposed to political threats and economic retaliation," his spokesman, Josh Ellis, said in a statement Thursday.


Google April Fool's prank boomerangs

NEW YORK (AP) — Google is acknowledging that it pranked itself after an April Fool's Day Gmail tweak angered some people who use Google's email for work.

The company added a button to its email service that allowed users to fire out a minion GIF, a character from the animated film "Despicable Me," which would drop a microphone and then mute responses to whatever email the user had sent.

The Gmail Help Forum on Thursday was soon populated by angry users who say they unintentionally attached a minion dropping a mic during important business communications.

Google Inc. apologized and turned off the feature, saying that due to a bug, the mic drop "inadvertently caused more headaches than laughs."


AP Exclusive: 'This Old House' brand gets new owner

"This Old House" is getting new ownership.

The venerable home-improvement brand — whose flagship TV series has been on the air since 1979 — has been acquired from Time Inc. by former Time Inc. exec Eric Thorkilsen in partnership with private equity firm TZP Group, the new company announced Friday.

This Old House Ventures LLC will be anchored by "This Old House" and its TV sibling, "Ask This Old House," as well as This Old House magazine, online content, a line of books and other branded products.


The Dow Jones industrial average jumped 107.66 points, or 0.6 percent, to 17,792.75. The Standard & Poor's 500 index advanced 13.04 points, or 0.6 percent, to 2,072.78. The Nasdaq composite index rose 44.69 points, or 0.9 percent, to 4,914.54.

U.S. crude fell $1.55, or 4 percent, to $36.79 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the benchmark for pricing international oils, gave up $1.66, or 4.1 percent, to $38.67 a barrel in London. In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline fell 5 cents, or 3 percent, to $1.40 a gallon. Heating oil slid 5 cents, or 4.5 percent, to $1.13 a gallon. Natural gas was little changed at $1.96 per 1,000 cubic feet.