Business Briefs: Obama challenges China trade deals

Unemployment higher in Tennessee, Georgia

Despite the nationwide drop in unemployment last month, Tennessee’s jobless rate in November was unchanged at 4.8 percent while the jobless rate rose by a tenth of a point to 5.3 percent in Georgia.

The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development said Thursday that seasonally adjusted employment levels fell by 2,800 jobs in November, due primarily to cutbacks in leisure and manufacturing industries. Over the past year, however, nonfarm employment increased in Tennessee by 55,600 jobs, or 2.8 percent.

The U.S. unemployment rate for November was 4.6 percent, down three-tenths of a percentage point from the previous month.

Georgia has maintained a higher jobless rate than the national average because of an influx of workers in to the job market. Labor Commisisoner Mark Butler said the state has added 186,888 workers and job seekers to its labor force since the first of the year.

“For the third consecutive month, strong growth in our state’s labor force caused a slight increase in our unemployment rate,” Butler said. “However, in those same three months, we’ve seen more than 56,000 people become employed.”

Obama challenges China trade deals

Amid new tensions with China, the Obama administration on Thursday launched its 15th challenge against Beijing at the Word Trade Organization, escalating a long-simmering debate over practices U.S. officials say limit American farmers’ ability to export rice, wheat and corn to the Asian powerhouse.

The administration says it is trying to hold China to its commitment to allow set quantities of grain and corn to enter the country subject to a lower tariff rate. China agreed to the terms when it joined the WTO, the administration said in a statement announcing new the complaint.

Exporters at times voice concerns that countries make it difficult to gain entry at the lower tariff rates. U.S. trade officials describe China’s system as “not transparent, predictable or fair.”

Mortgage rates jump since Trump’s election

Mortgage rates are still surging five weeks after Donald Trump’s election victory.

In the week ended Thursday, the average rate on the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rose to 4.16 percent from 4.13 percent the previous week, mortgage company Freddie Mac reported. That compares with 3.57 percent in the week ended Nov. 9, the day Trump clinched the election. A year ago, the benchmark loan rate averaged 3.97 percent.

DuPont to pay fines for mercury pollution

Chemical giant DuPont will pay more than $50 million but admit no fault under a proposed environmental settlement after releasing toxic mercury for decades into the Shenandoah Valley waterways, authorities announced Thursday.

The deal would resolve state and federal litigation over pollution from a company factory in Waynesboro. It amounts to the largest environmental damage settlement in Virginia history and the eighth largest in the nation, officials said. The money would go to wildlife habitat restoration, water quality enhancement and improvements to recreational areas.

“In bringing this settlement to a close, we are finally righting a wrong that has impacted the South River and the South Fork of the Shenandoah River for so many decades,” Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe said.

DuPont used mercury in its process of making synthetic fiber at the plant between 1929 and 1950, according to the state Department of Environmental Quality. Strict storage and disposal regulations weren’t in place at the time, and some of the mercury seeped into the South River and flowed downstream to the Shenandoah.

Fox to buy Sky for $14.6 billion

Rupert Murdoch’s media giant Twenty-First Century Fox has agreed to take over European broadcaster Sky PLC in a $14.6 billion deal, the companies said Thursday.

The deal offers $13.40 per share in London-based Sky, valuing the broadcaster at 18.5 billion pounds.

Twenty-First Century Fox already owns just over 39 percent of Sky. An earlier attempt to acquire the rest was scuttled by the 2011 phone-hacking scandal that rocked Murdoch’s British newspapers and the media establishment.

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