St. Mary’s Medical Center may eliminate 25 positions

St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center is eliminating jobs as part of a restructuring effort.

Hospital executives say some positions are being eliminated, departing employees are not being replaced and layoffs are expected as the hospital’s parent company restructures.

The Sun Journal reported that about 25 positions could be eliminated, but the number was described as “fluid.”

Lee Myles, president and CEO of St. Mary’s Health System, said that charges are being made to prepare for health reform and to adjust for reductions in MaineCare reimbursement. He said the state owes $23 million to the company, which can no longer absorb that debt.

Department of Agriculture to buy Maine blueberries

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says it intends to buy as much as $16 million worth of wild Maine blueberries for federal food programs.

The Maine Wild Blueberry Commission requested the purchase to help the industry address an oversupply caused by a large crop. The industry was also affected by a growing supply of frozen cultivated blueberries.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud of Maine asked the government to make a timely decision on the request.

Michaud called the USDA purchase “a win-win that will help address the needs of the industry as well as the nation’s food programs.”

Stocks close higher on news of November jobs report

SAN FRANCISCO – U.S. stocks closed higher Friday after gains from a better-than-expected November jobs report shook off a drop in December consumer sentiment.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 81.09 points, or 0.6 percent, to 13,155.13, led by JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Bank of America Corp. For the week, the Dow industrials climbed 1 percent for their third consecutive week of gains.

The S&P 500 index advanced 4.13 points, or 0.3 percent, to close at 1,418.07. For the week, the index advanced 0.1 percent for its third week of gains.

Losses for Apple Inc., however, weighed on the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index, which closed down 11.23 points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,978.04, a loss of 1.1 percent for the week.

Before the stock market opened, the Labor Department reported that nonfarm payrolls rose by 146,000 jobs last month, and the unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent from 7.9 percent. The data topped forecasts as economists had projected an increase of 80,000 jobs and an unchanged unemployment rate.

That initially boosted stocks into positive territory across the board, but gains were pared following the release of the University of Michigan-Thomson Reuters preliminary consumer-sentiment index for December that showed a decline to 74.5 from 82.7 in November.

Investors also monitored developments in Washington. House Speaker John Boehner said Friday there has been no progress in negotiations with the White House to avoid the fiscal cliff, or hundreds of billions of dollars of automatic tax increases and spending cuts due to take effect in the new year.

— From staff and news services