Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Business Digest

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Business Digest

Article excerpt

Applications for jobless aid fall to lowest in 50 years - The number of people applying for unemployment aid fell last week to its lowest level in nearly five decades, solid evidence that the job market is healthy and layoffs scarce.

The Labor Department says weekly applications for jobless benefits dropped 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 196,000. That is the lowest since October 1969. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell to 207,000, the lowest since December 1969.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs, so the ongoing decline -- applications have tumbled for four straight weeks -- signals that businesses are confident enough about future demand to hold onto their workers. That confidence is also spurring more hiring: Job gains rebounded last month after a sharp slowdown in February, suggesting the economy remains resilient in its 10th year of expansion.

Amazon's Bezos challenges retail rivals to raise minimum wages - Amazon.com Inc. Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos on Thursday challenged rival retailers to increase their minimum wages to $16 an hour.

"Today I challenge our top retail competitors (you know who you are!) to match our employee benefits and our $15 minimum wage," the billionaire entrepreneur said in a letter to shareholders.

"Do it! Better yet, go to $16 and throw the gauntlet back at us."

The online retailer giant raised its minimum wage to $15 per hour for U.S. employees from November, giving in to critics of poor pay and working conditions at the company.

Amazon's wage hike came at a time when U.S. unemployment was at a near two-decade low as retailers and shippers were competing for hundreds of thousands of workers for the all-important holiday shopping season.

Bezos said in his letter that the wage hike has benefited more than 250,000 Amazon employees and over 100,000 seasonal employees who worked during the last holiday season at Amazon sites in the United States. …

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