Business digest: Jobless claims fluctuate as recovery slows

WASHINGTON — Applications for unemployment aid have been fluctuating from week to week, offering an uncertain view of layoffs and the job market.

First-time requests for jobless aid dropped last week to their lowest level since early May, the government said Thursday, erasing increases made in the last two months.

Still, economists say it's hard to detect a trend in one week of declines. Initial claims have seesawed for several weeks and are not much lower than they were in January.

J&J sales plunge as new drug recall announced

TRENTON, N.J. — Sales of Johnson & Johnson pain relievers are collapsing as a string of recalls appears to have made consumers wary of once-sterling brands such as Tylenol and Motrin.


An eighth recall, announced Thursday, could worsen consumer reaction. That wariness and the huge amount of products pulled off store shelves together look to be costing J&J tens of millions of dollars a month.

Thursday's recall by Johnson & Johnson's McNeil consumer health care unit covers 21 lots of products, including Children's Tylenol.

5 May flights sat on tarmac over 3 hours

NEW YORK — There were five flights stuck on the tarmac for three hours or more in May, the first month under a new rule banning lengthy tarmac delays, the government said Thursday.

That compares with 35 three-hour delays in May 2009.

United Airlines operated four of the five flights this May. One of those United flights stayed on the tarmac for almost five hours. All four of the United flights were bound for Denver on May 26 when severe thunderstorms and hail swept through Colorado. Denver International Airport had 30-to-60-minute delays on average that day and limited use of runways.

The fifth was a Delta Air Lines flight from Atlanta to Dallas-Fort Worth on May 28, a day when thunderstorms popped up in Dallas.

Mortgage rates drop to new low of 4.57%


NEW YORK — Mortgage rates fell for the second straight week to the lowest point in five decades. But many people either don't qualify for new mortgages or have already taken advantage of the low rates this year.

As a result, the housing market and the broader economy may not benefit much from the lower rates.

The average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage dropped to 4.57 percent this week, mortgage company Freddie Mac reported Thursday. That's down from the previous record low of 4.58 percent set last week.

It's the lowest since Freddie Mac began tracking rates in 1971. The last time rates were lower was in the 1950s, when most long-term home loans lasted just 20 or 25 years.

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