Maine far behind nation in recovering lost jobs

Maine’s job growth has significantly lagged the nation, according to a report released Wednesday by the New England Economic Partnership.

The country as a whole has recovered nearly two-thirds of jobs lost in the recession, but Maine has recovered only 11 percent — or just 3,000 jobs, the report said.

Economists said job growth lagged in education and health services, professional and business services, construction and manufacturing. Maine matched U.S. growth only in leisure and hospitality.

“The U.S. jobs recovery has been described as disappointing, but it has been a virtual rocket compared with Maine’s recovery,” said Charles Colgan, professor of public policy and management at the Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine.

In each of the past three years, Maine has been unable to sustain three consecutive quarters of job growth in any year. Colgan expects Maine to return to pre-recession employment levels in the fourth quarter of 2016 — which would mean that the entire recession-recovery cycle in the state lingered for nine years.

The forecast is more dismal than it was a year ago because of federal policies and national trends that are hurting the state, Colgan said.

While the manufacturing sector has recovered nationally because of the revival of the auto industry, Maine’s manufacturing sector is still challenged because of its reliance on forest products, Colgan said.

 

WGAN Newsradio makes news station national Top 20

A Portland radio station has been ranked as one of the top 20 news and news talk radio stations in the country.

Radio Ink, an established industry magazine, published its first-ever top 20 list on Monday and the list included 560WGAN Newsradio in Portland, which came in as the 20th best station.

Radio Ink said it relied on several factors to pick the top 20, including a station’s commitment to providing local information, its longevity, revenue, station ratings and how the station sounded on air.

Jeff Wade, WGAN’s brand manager and news director, said the station, which was established in 1938, will celebrate its 75th anniversary in August. The station, which stopped playing music in the late 1980s, provides around-the-clock news coverage and news talk programming.

“Everyone at the station is really excited. It’s a nice recognition for all the hard work we put in every day,” Wade said.

 

‘Business-friendly’ honors go to Presque Isle, Richmond

Two more Maine municipalities have been designated as “business-friendly” by the state.

The Department of Economic and Community Development says Presque Isle and Richmond have made the grade. Twenty Maine towns and cities have earned the designation since the program began a little over a year ago.

Those deemed as business-friendly are given a certificate and two road signs to tout the award. They’re also promoted by the state as being business-friendly.

Communities are evaluated on whether they have a business-friendly approach in terms of customer service, licensing and permitting, business involvement and collaboration.

 

HP’s quarterly revenue falls for the seventh straight time

Hewlett-Packard’s slump is deepening as the world’s largest personal computer maker scrambles to meet the growing demand for more versatile and less expensive mobile devices.

The latest evidence of Hewlett-Packard Co.’s continuing downfall came in a quarterly earnings report released Wednesday. The results included the seventh consecutive decline in HP’s quarterly revenue compared with the same period the previous year. HP’s 10 percent decrease in revenue during the three months ending in April was the largest drop so far during the slump.

Most of the erosion has occurred under the leadership of Meg Whitman, a former CEO at eBay Inc. and defeated California gubernatorial candidate, who was hired to run HP in September 2011. Whitman has repeatedly warned that HP’s revenue might not start growing at an acceptable rate for another year or two as she cuts costs, overhauls the company’s product line and pushes into more profitable niches in business software, data analysis and storage and technology consulting.

 

Judge may order companies to improve disability access

A federal judge in Denver is considering an injunction after ruling that nearly 250 Abercrombie & Fitch Co. and J.M. Hollister LLC clothing stores are unfriendly to the disabled.

The judge agreed in March with the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition that the retailers that cater to a hip, young clientele limited access for customers in wheelchairs.

He said the only remedy under the Americans With Disabilities Act is an order to fix the problems, and individuals can’t be compensated.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of several Colorado customers who say they had trouble getting into stores and that the sales countertops are too high.

The companies say they complied with all construction standards in effect at the time.

New Albany, Ohio-based Abercrombie & Fitch is the parent company of Hollister.

 

Lowe’s quarterly income up 3%, but below expectations

Lowe’s said Wednesday that its first-quarter net income rose nearly 3 percent, but results fell short of expectations as rainy weather hurt spring gardening sales.

The No. 2 home improvement retailer’s results stood in contrast to those reported a day earlier by Home Depot. Lowe’s larger rival reported an 18 percent rise in net income, bolstered by the improving housing market. Lowe’s was hurt more by the rainy and cool spring.

 

Target’s first-quarter profit drops with the temperatures

Target Corp. reported a 29 percent drop in first-quarter profit as unusually cool spring weather and financial pressures chilled customers’ appetite for spending.

The company, based in Minneapolis, also on Wednesday cut its annual profit outlook, sending its stock down.

Target is the latest in a string of companies, including rival Walmart Stores Inc., that say bad weather and financial pressures like the higher payroll tax have squeezed business in the first couple months of the year.

 

Evian redesigning its bottle to revive sales and image

Evian is giving itself a facelift to keep up with its sleek, young competitors on store shelves.

The water, which is owned by French food and beverage company Danone, is unveiling a new bottle for the first time in 14 years as it looks to reinvigorate its image and win back market share in the premium water category. Instead of the contoured bottle that has long defined the brand, the new look has cleaner lines, reminiscent of the cylinder-like shape of the Smartwater bottle.

Evian’s makeover comes at a critical time, given the brand’s languishing sales performance in an industry where looks play such a big role.

 

Profitable Tesla Motors pays off $465 million loan early

Electric car maker Tesla Motors says it has repaid a loan from the U.S. government nine years early.

The Detroit company says it wired a $451.8 million payment to the government on Wednesday to retire a loan it received from the Department of Energy. The agency loaned Tesla $465 million in 2010 to make advanced-technology vehicles.

The company used money from a $968 million sale of stock and notes to pay off the debt. The sale took place last week and closed on Wednesday.

Tesla sells only one car, the $70,000 Model S. Earlier this month the company reported its first quarterly profit. Its stock price has more than doubled since the first of the year and closed Wednesday at $87.24.

 

Boeing 787 program healthy, commercial planes chief says

Boeing Co.’s commercial airplanes chief Ray Conner declared Wednesday that the 787 has “turned the corner,” with the fix for its recent battery problem all but completely implemented and production on track to rise to 10 jets a month by year end.

At Boeing’s annual investor conference, Conner confidently predicted that the 787 and the forthcoming 777X will dominate Airbus in the widebody jet market.