Business

Business Notes

Kentucky

Auto wheel manufacturer lays off 45 in Franklin County

Wheel manufacturer Topy America has laid off 45 workers at its Franklin County factory, according to WKYT-27. The manufacturer said the cut accounted for 16 percent of the site's work force of around 280. Tom Trzaskus, director of the plant, declined to comment when reached at his home on Tuesday evening. In mid-2007, Topy America employed about 600 at the site but then cut 250 workers when it decided to stop making aluminum wheels and focus only on steel wheels. Topy, a subsidiary of the Japanese company Topy Industries, has been manufacturing wheels for the automotive industry since 1986.

Jobless claims overwhelm system

Kentucky is one of several states around the country whose unemployment claims system has been stretched to the max during recent days. Kentucky jobless claims rose to 40,400 in November from 23,400 a year earlier. A flood of new filers overwhelmed the state's unemployment Web site and phone lines Monday, when more than 8,000 people filed initial claims, said Kim Brannock, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Education Cabinet, which oversees the state unemployment office. Kentucky's unemployment systems weren't designed to handle that kind of volume. Technicians worked through the night to add capacity to the Web site and are still trying to increase its phone capacity beyond the current 400 lines, Brannock said. "People seem to feel like they have to file first thing Monday morning," she said. "They don't have to, but they feel that way. It's just overwhelming to the system."

Tobacco settlement stands, judge rules

A federal judge has dismissed a challenge to the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement between the states and 19 tobacco product makers saying there's no legal basis for attacking the compact. U.S. District Judge Jennifer Coffman in Louisville ruled Tuesday that the lawsuit, brought by General Tobacco, failed on all fronts because the company couldn't prove that the settlement amounted to either a conspiracy or anti-competitive behavior by the government.

W.Va. hospital cutting management jobs

Cabell Huntington Hospital in Huntington, W.Va., is reducing its work force by 40. The hospital blamed Tuesday's announcement on the economic downturn. Most of the affected employees are management personnel from a range of departments. None is involved in direct patient care. Hospital CEO Brent A. Marsteller said the hospital has lost investment income while providing more than $45 million worth of charity care. It also is paying more for medical supplies, pharmaceuticals and employee benefits. The 313-bed hospital employs more than 2,000 and serves patients in West Virginia, Eastern Kentucky and southern Ohio.

national

Online Social Security applications easier

The Social Security Administration, facing the prospect of 10,000 baby boomers applying for benefits every day for the next 20 years, has put together a new online service that will allow people to get their benefits without traveling to a Social Security field office. The agency, in introducing the program Tuesday, said most people will be able to apply for their retirement or disability benefits in 15 minutes or less. "We have nearly 80 million baby boomers coming in," Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue said. "We just don't have the infrastructure to handle that workload in the traditional fashion." The agency has had versions of online applications since 2000, but in the past, applicants have still had to mail or deliver paper documents with their signatures and copies of birth certificates or W-2 forms. In the future, the process should be paperless in the majority of cases. "We redid it from scratch. It's easier to use. It's faster," Astrue said. Those who want to use the new program can go to www.socialsecurity.gov and click on "Applying Online for Retirement Benefits."

Apple restructures iTunes online store

Apple Inc. is cutting the price of some songs in its market-leading iTunes online store to as little as 69 cents and plans to make every track available without copy protection. In Apple's final appearance at the Macworld trade show, Apple's top marketing executive, Philip Schiller, said Tuesday that iTunes song prices will come in three tiers: 69 cents, 99 cents and $1.29. Record companies will choose the prices, which marks a significant change, since Apple previously made all songs sell for 99 cents.

Alcoa to cut 13 percent of work force

Alcoa Inc., the world's third-largest aluminum maker, said Tuesday it will cut 13,500 jobs, or 13 percent of its work force, and slash spending and output to cope with the global economic slowdown. The Pittsburgh-based company also said 1,700 contractors will be cut as part of a broad-based plan to reduce costs that includes the planned sale of four business units and a global salary and hiring freeze.

Services index rises; overall outlook grim

A measure of the U.S. services sector improved slightly in December, beating analysts' estimates, but pending home sales and factory orders both fell more than expected, and the overall economic outlook remains grim. In a reading bolstered by improvements in new orders and employment, the Institute for Supply Management said Tuesday that its services sector index rose to 40.6 in December from 37.3 in November. Wall Street economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected the index to slip slightly to 37. But the index from a trade group of purchasing executives continues to signal that the sector is shrinking, since any reading below 50 signals contraction. Prices continued to fall, with that component of the index hitting its lowest level since it was first reported in 1997.

Compiled from Staff, wire reports

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