Unemployment claims drop to 441/2-year low

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits dropped to its lowest level in more than 44½ years last week, pointing to a rebound in job growth after a hurricane-related decline in employment last month.

The labor market outlook was also bolstered by a report Thursday showing a measure of factory employment in the Mid-Atlantic region racing to a record high in October. The signs of labor market strength could cement expectations that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates in December.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell by 22,000 to a seasonally adjusted 222,000 for the week ended Oct. 14, the lowest level since March 1973, the Labor Department said

Claims are declining as the effect of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma washes out of the data. The hurricanes boosted claims to an almost three-year high of 298,000 at the start of September.

A Labor Department official said claims for the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico continued to be affected in the aftermath of hurricanes Irma and Maria. As a result, the department was estimating claims for the islands.

Last week marked the 137th week in a row that claims were below the 300,000 threshold, which is associated with a robust labor market. That is the longest such stretch since 1970.

— Reuters

Nissan halts assembly of vehicles sold in Japan

The Nissan Motor Co. is suspending domestic production of vehicles for the Japanese market for at least two weeks to address misconduct in the final inspection procedures that led to a major recall, the company said Thursday.

The issue has tarnished Nissan's brand at home and, along with a data falsification scandal at compatriot Kobe Steel, raised questions about compliance and quality control at Japanese manufacturers.

Japan's second-largest automaker said it would stop production of domestic-market vehicles at all six of its Japanese assembly plants to consolidate inspection lines to comply with transport ministry requirements.

Nissan produced about 79,300 passenger and commercial vehicles in Japan in August. About 27,600 were made for the Japanese market.

The automaker said uncertified technicians performed final checks for domestic-market models because some inspection steps had been transferred to other inspection lines, in violation of ministry rules.

Checks by uncertified inspectors continued even after Nissan said it had boosted control of its inspection processes when the issue came to light last month.

The misconduct has forced Nissan to recall all 1.2 million passenger cars sold in Japan in the past three years for reinspection. The company said Thursday that about 34,000 additional cars would be reinspected. Nissan will continue to produce vehicles for export in Japan, as the certification process for final inspections does not apply to vehicles shipped overseas.

— Reuters

Also in Business

General Motors agreed to pay $120 million to resolve claims from 49 U.S. states and the District of Columbia over faulty ignition switches, state attorneys general said. The largest U.S. automaker had previously paid about $2.5 billion in penalties and settlements over the faulty ignition switches, which could cause engines to stall and prevent air bags from deploying in crashes. The defect has been linked to 124 deaths and 275 injuries. Spokesman David Caldwell confirmed that the automaker had reached a settlement with states.

Swiss drugmaker Novartis plans to cut 450 U.S. jobs over the next two years as it gradually shuts a generics manufacturing plant in Colorado and discontinues some products amid intense price pressures. "To remain competitive in the U.S., Novartis will discontinue or divest limited growth products in saturated markets," a spokesman said.

LG Electronics said it will work with Qualcomm to research and develop autonomous driving technologies. The South Korean company said it has opened a research center in Seoul with the U.S. chipmaker and will open another one in the city by the end of 2018. They will focus on developing fifth-generation wireless technology, or 5G, seen as crucial for autonomous vehicles.

— From news services

Coming today

10 a.m.: Existing-home sales.
10 a.m.:
State unemployment figures.