Sequester hasn’t weighed on area jobs

Automatic federal spending cuts have put many businesses in the Washington area in a cautious posture, but the first state-level unemployment report since the cuts went into effect offers little evidence that the budget sequester rattled the region’s labor market in March.

According to a report released Friday by the Labor Department, the unemployment rate in the District dropped to 8.5 percent in March, compared with 8.6 percent in February. Virginia’s jobless rate dipped to 5.3 from 5.6 percent, while Maryland’s rate was unchanged at 6.6 percent.

The professional services sector, which includes government contractors, did not show a fresh pullback. In Maryland, the sector added 3,500 jobs, the largest one-month gain in at least a year. While this category shed jobs in the District and Virginia, the losses were not markedly different from those seen on a month-to-month basis over the past year. The District lost 100 professional services jobs, while Virginia lost 3,000.

The job gains and losses in the federal government sector also did not differ sharply from the patterns seen earlier this year. Maryland lost 400 jobs in this category, while the District lost 500. In Virginia, 500 positions were added.

Sarah Halzack

Top domestic air routes
Europe is a drag on GE’s quarterly profits

General Electric’s first-quarter results were dragged down by deteriorating economic conditions in Europe, highlighting the danger that the continent’s struggles still pose to the global economy.

GE chief executive Jeffrey R. Immelt said he expected results in Europe to be bad in the quarter — and they were worse. Revenue from the region fell 17 percent, compared with last year.

“We planned for Europe to be similar to 2012, down again, but it was even weaker than we expected,” Immelt said in a call with investors.

While GE’s results were roughly what analysts expected and Immelt said that the company remained on track to meet its financial goals for the year, his gloomy comments about Europe and the weak performance of the company’s core industrial operations sent GE shares tumbling. They closed at $21.75, down 4 percent.

This even though the company’s earnings rose in the first quarter, helped by the sale of NBC Universal and increased profit from selling aircraft engines and transportation equipment. GE reported net income of $3.5 billion, or 34 cents per share, on revenue of $35 billion.

— Associated Press

Also in Business

l  Mississippi became the third state, after Louisiana and Alabama, to sue BP over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Attorney General Jim Hood announced Friday that the state had filed lawsuits in federal and state court. The move comes one day before the three-year statute of limitations expires for claims related to the April 20, 2010, explosion of the Deepwater Horizon that killed 11 and set off the spill.

l  Blackstone Group is dropping its effort to acquire Dell as the computer-maker faces slumping sales in personal computers and worsening financial projections. The buyout specialist and its partners said that because of those challenges, which surfaced after their bid was submitted last month, they have dropped a plan to buy most of Dell’s outstanding stock for $14.25 per share.

l  Fisker Automotive spent $660,000 in U.S. taxpayer and investor money to produce each luxury plug-in car it sold for $103,000, according to a research report by PrivCo, a New York-based researcher. Fisker made about 2,500 Karmas before it stopped manufacturing cars late last year.

l  American International Group may succeed in returning its lawsuit against Bank of America over mortgage securities to a New York state court. A federal appeals court in Manhattan ruled Friday that the Edge Act, a 1919 law that regulates international banking, doesn’t give the federal court jurisdiction over AIG’s suit. New York-based AIG sued Bank of America in state court over losses it claimed on mortgage bond investments. Bank of America, based in Charlotte, had the case moved to federal court, and U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones denied AIG’s request to return it to state court. But the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan vacated Jones’s ruling Friday and returned the case to the federal district court for further action.

l  Nissan is recalling more than 19,000 Nissan and Infiniti sport-utility vehicles because a brake part can fail and make it harder for a driver to stop. The recall affects Nissan Pathfinder and Infiniti JX SUVs from the 2013 model year, made from Dec. 3, 2012, through Jan. 29, 2013.

— From news services

Coming Next Week

l  Sunday Business: Maybe we’re putting too much faith in GDP and other economic indicators.

l  Monday: Existing-home sales data for March released. Netflix reports earnings.