Service companies report work force shrinking

Two days before the government’s much-anticipated jobs report, a snapshot of employment trends in the service sector flashed an ominous sign.

Hotels, restaurants, banks and other service companies, which employ 90 percent of Americans, reduced the size of their work forces in September, according to a survey of purchasing managers conducted by the Institute of Supply Management.

The Labor Department’s monthly jobs report will be released Friday. The last time it showed a net loss of jobs was in September 2010 – one month after the ISM’s monthly survey signaled the same trend.

Bank of America website appears back to normal

Bank of America customers had problems accessing their accounts for six days. After the site appeared back to normal Wednesday, the bank attributed the troubles largely to a system upgrade.

David Owen, who heads online and mobile banking at Bank of America, said the slowness and time-outs customers experienced were the result of a “multi-year project” to upgrade its online banking platform.

He said the testing of certain features and high traffic at the end of the month contributed to the delays.

When the problems surfaced Friday morning, the bank cast a “wide net” and worked with law enforcement officials to quickly rule out the possibility of third-party interference, Owen said.

Ford, GM lower labor costs target price of their debt

Detroit’s biggest carmakers have their labor costs under control thanks to new contracts. Now they’re hoping to lower the cost of their debt.

Ford and General Motors have agreed to new four-year labor contracts that could save them money. Under the contracts, they won’t have to pay annual raises to U.S. factory workers and they’ll hire thousands of new ones at lower wages. That could mean more money for investment and repayment of debt.

Agencies that rate the credit worthiness of companies like Ford and GM are putting investors on notice that the two automakers could get an “upgrade” in debt ratings, potentially lowering their cost for borrowing.

Univision programs to be available on Hulu Plus

Univision, the nation’s No. 1 Spanish-language broadcaster, is bringing its popular telenovelas and other prime-time TV programming to online video service Hulu.

The deal announced Wednesday gives Hulu a way to sell advertising to a growing Hispanic population and entice it to pay for subscriptions that unlock more content.

Hulu’s paying subscribers will get the majority of Univision’s prime-time offerings the day after airing on regular TV. Hulu says more than 1 million people pay $8 a month for Hulu Plus, which lets them watch shows on devices other than a computer and access a deeper library than the free version.

Universal, Comcast test high-cost movie deal

Movie studio Universal Pictures and its new parent, cable TV giant Comcast, will test out giving film buffs a chance to watch a movie that is still in theaters from the comfort of their living rooms. But the price tag for a single movie could have consumers spitting out their popcorn: $60.

The test involves “Tower Heist,” a PG-13 rated comedy caper starring Eddie Murphy and Ben Stiller due out Nov. 4.

Subscribers of Comcast Corp.’s digital cable service who have a high-definition TV that live in Atlanta and Portland, Ore., will be able to rent the movie starting Nov. 23 and watch it unlimited times in a 48-hour window.