Single-family home sales jump 15 percent in Maine

Sales of single-family homes in Maine rose by 15 percent in August from a year earlier, but the median sales price fell by about 3 percent.

The Maine Association of Realtors says agents last month sold 1,090 homes. That’s up from 950 in August 2010.

The median sales price was $165,000, down from $169,750.

For the three-month period from June through August, home sales in Maine grew by 2 percent compared with the same period last year. The median sales price fell by about 1.5 percent.

Cumberland County had the highest median sales price for the three-month period, at $235,000. Aroostook County had the lowest price, at $80,000.

Fewer people apply for unemployment benefits

The number of people applying for unemployment benefits fell last week, though the decline isn’t enough to signal improvement in the job market. Weekly applications dropped by 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 423,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The four-week average, a less volatile figure, rose slightly for the fifth straight week to 421,000.

Applications typically need to fall below 375,000 to signal sustainable job growth. They haven’t been that low since February. Higher unemployment benefit applications may suggest more employers are laying off workers amid growing worries that the economy has weakened.

Pacific Biosciences of California Inc. said Wednesday that it will cut 130 employees, or 28 percent of its work force. Last week, Bank of America Corp. said it is cutting 30,000 jobs.

Berkshire Hathaway stock, Class A, falls 19% in a year

Berkshire Hathaway’s Class A stock has fallen below $100,000 for the first time since January 2010 amid broader market declines and concern about the health of the economy.

The Class A shares of billionaire investor Warren Buffett’s company declined $2,136, or 2.1 percent, to $99,114 Thursday afternoon. The more affordable Class B shares fell at a similar rate, 2.3 percent, or $1.53, to $65.69. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index was down 4.1 percent late Thursday.

Over the past year, Berkshire’s Class A shares declined nearly 19 percent from $124,865 to Wednesday’s closing price of $101,250. By contrast, the S&P 500 index that Buffett measures his company’s progress against was up about 2 percent from a year earlier at Wednesday’s close.

Toys R Us to hire 40,000 for holidays, a drop-off

Toys R Us said Thursday that it plans to hire more than 40,000 seasonal employees to staff its stores and distribution centers for the holiday season.

That’s slightly less than last year’s hiring forecast. In 2010, the Wayne, N.J.-based retailer said in September that it planned to hire 45,000 seasonal workers. Toys R Us is mirroring other national retailers that have announced plans to keep their seasonal hiring at or slightly below last year’s levels.

Employment placement firm Challenger Gray & Christmas reported this week that seasonal hiring will be flat or down slightly from last year’s 627,000 hires.

Operator of Taco Bell sells A&W, Long John Silver’s

The operator of the Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut fast-food chains says it has found buyers for its Long John Silver’s and A&W Restaurant chains.

Yum Brands Inc. says Long John Silver’s is being bought by LJS Partners LLC, led by a group of franchisees and other investors.

A&W is being bought by A Great American Brand LLC, which is led by one major franchisee.

The company didn’t disclose the financial terms of the deals.

— From news service reports