Business Notes


State's jobless benefits increase $25 a week with federal infusion

Gov. Steve Beshear has signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor that will give Kentuckians an additional $25 a week in unemployment benefits. "This agreement not only provides them an extra boost, but it is a positive step toward infusing money back into our communities and putting Kentuckians back to work," Beshear said Friday in announcing the increase. The agreement comes under the Assistance for Unemployed Workers and Struggling Families Act, which was signed last week by President Barack Obama. Those receiving unemployment payments will automatically receive the additional $25, beginning the week of Feb. 22 and continuing through June 30, 2010. The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics released data Friday that put the unemployment rate for Kentucky in 2008 at 6.4 percent, up from 5.5 percent in 2007.

James River Coal's quarterly loss jumps

James River Coal's fourth-quarter loss nearly doubled as shipments decreased and costs rose. The Virginia-based company said Friday it lost $33.6 million, or $1.26 per share, in the period. By comparison, James River lost $18.5 million, or $1.04 per share, a year earlier. Revenue rose to $140.7 million, from $124.7 million in 2007. Shipments dipped 100,000 tons to 2.8 million in fourth-quarter 2008, while costs rose to $48.14 per ton, from $40.51 per ton in 2007. For 2008, James River lost $96 million, or $3.91 per share. In 2007, James River lost $54 million, or $3.29 per share. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had expected, on average, the company to lose 82 cents per share in the quarter and $3.41 for the full year. James River operates mines in Indiana and Kentucky.


FDIC starts charging banks more

Federal regulators on Friday raised the fees paid by U.S. financial institutions and levied a hefty emergency premium in a bid to collect $27 billion this year. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. now expects that bank failures will cost the insurance fund about $65 billion through 2013, up from an earlier estimate of $40 billion. The bank failures, 14 already this year following 25 last year, reflect the ravages of rising unemployment and falling home prices that have sent loan defaults soaring. The industry's biggest trade group said the new insurance fees would place an extra burden on the nation's banks and thrifts, and it suggested regulators could reduce the premiums if their economic assumptions end up being overly severe. The FDIC board said the economic crisis, which has caused the insurance fund to drop to its lowest level in nearly a quarter-century, also warranted extending the plan to rebuild the insurance fund from five years to seven.

Pilgrim's Pride to cut 3,000 jobs

Pilgrim's Pride Corp. said Friday it will cut 3,000 jobs, or about 7 percent of its work force, as it shuts down operations at three of its 32 chicken processing plants. The closings, which will reduce the company's chicken production by roughly 10 percent, are designed to save the company $110 million a year as part of a restructuring. The company filed for Chapter 11 protection in December under a heavy debt load. The plants are expected to close by mid-May. They are in Douglas, Ga.; El Dorado, Ark.; and Farmerville, La.

Wells Fargo suspends executive bonuses

Wells Fargo & Co.'s board has suspended its bonus policy for Chief Executive John Stumpf and its other top executives, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing Friday. Wells Fargo's board suspended the policy Tuesday, retroactive to Jan. 1. Wells Fargo said executives will not receive cash bonuses for 2008 either, because the company has not met its performance goals.

Dividend cut is GE's first since Depression

For the first time since the Great Depression, General Electric Co. is cutting its quarterly dividend, which allows the struggling conglomerate to save $9 billion a year as it braces for a tough 2009. GE, one of the nation's largest companies, said Friday it will pay shareholders a dividend of 10 cents a share beginning in the third quarter, compared with the original plan of 31 cents.

Compiled from Staff, wire reports