Unemployment claims drop, surprising experts

Initial jobless claims unexpectedly fell last week to 315,000 as the labor market showed signs of emerging from a winter chill.

The number of first-time claims for unemployment benefits was down from 324,000 the previous week, the Labor Department said. Economists had projected claims to increase to 330,000.

The four-week average fell by 6,250 last week to 330,500.

Claims fell to nearly a six-year low in late November, as severe weather forced some businesses to temporarily close. But the labor market bounced back last month, adding an unexpectedly strong 175,000 net new jobs.

U.S. airlines say planes were 83 percent full in 2013

Next time you board a commercial flight, don’t expect to find an empty seat next to you.

The nation’s airlines filled an average of 83.1 percent of the seats on flights in 2013, a record, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

The high “load factor” indicates that the number of seats available is not keeping up with increasing demand for air travel.

The nation’s airlines carried 743 million passengers in 2013, the highest annual total since 2008, according to the federal agency. By comparison, U.S. carriers flew 737 million passengers in 2012.

Meanwhile, the number of flights dropped from about 9.3 million in 2012 to slightly less than 9.2 million last year, the agency reported Thursday.

Lions Gate fined $7.5 million for keeping secrets from SEC

The Securities and Exchange Commission levied a $7.5 million fine against movie studio Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. for failing to properly disclose its role in a complex debt-equity swap that helped it fend off a hostile takeover bid from Carl Icahn in 2010.

The SEC said Thursday that Lions Gate had agreed to pay the fine and admitted wrongdoing.

A Lions Gate spokesman declined to comment.

The company had already accounted for the cost of the fine in its earnings report for its third quarter, which ended in December.

The commission said the company orchestrated the move to put about 9 percent of company shares in the hands of a director friendly to management. The agency said such a large sale of stock would have required shareholders’ approval.

British banks urged to make rule-breakers return bonuses

Banks operating in Britain should amend employee contracts so they can recoup bonus payments from workers who exceed their risk limits or break financial-conduct rules, the Bank of England said Thursday.

The central bank’s proposed rules on bonus clawbacks would allow lenders to retrieve bonuses for up to six years after they’re paid, starting Jan. 1, 2015, the Prudential Regulation Authority, a unit of the BOE, said in a statement.

— From news service reports