Maine’s worker fatality rates exceeded U.S. average in ’11

Maine’s on-the-job death rate exceeded the national average in 2011, according to an AFL-CIO report issued Wednesday.

According to the report, 26 workers were killed in Maine in 2011, a rate of 4.2 deaths per 100,000 workers.

That was higher than the average national rate of 3.5 deaths per 100,000 workers, according to the AFL-CIO.

Nationally, Maine ranks 30th among states for worker fatality rates, with first being the best and 50th being the worst, the report said. Maine also ranks higher than average for injuries and illnesses incurred at work.

The full report is at:

Philadelphia Fed president advocates a slower stimulus

U.S. stocks retreated Thursday, following five successive records for the Standard & Poor’s 500 index, as the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia President Charles Plosser said he favors scaling back the central bank’s pace of stimulus.

Plosser said Thursday in New York he favors reducing the monthly $85 billion bond purchases as early as the next Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), which is scheduled to meet June 18-19.

He said unemployment will fall to 7 percent at the end of this year.

Plosser’s remarks highlight a debate within the FOMC on whether to expand or curb the pace of stimulus that has pumped up the central bank’s balance sheet to $3.32 trillion.

At their April 30-May 1 meeting, policy makers said they’re prepared to increase bond buying in response to changes in the labor market or inflation.

Unemployment applications fall to 323,000, a 5-year low

The number of Americans who applied for unemployment benefits fell by 4,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 323,000, a five-year low. Layoffs have returned to pre-recession levels, a trend that could lead to more hiring.

The Labor Department said Thursday that the less volatile four-week average dropped 6,250 to 336,750. That the fewest since November 2007, one month before the Great Recession began.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs. Weekly applications have fallen about 9 percent since November and are now at a level consistent with a healthy economy.

The last time weekly applications were lower was in January 2008, when they were 321,000.

Average 30-year mortgage rises a bit to 3.42 percent

Average U.S. mortgage rates rose this week but remained near historic lows. Cheaper mortgages have encouraged more home buying and refinancing.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate for the 30-year fixed mortgage edged up to 3.42 percent from 3.35 percent last week.

That’s still near the average of 3.31 percent reached in November, the lowest on records dating to 1971.

The average on the 15-year fixed-rate loan rose to 2.61 percent from 2.56 percent last week, which was the lowest on records going back to 1991.

Survey of retailers shows modest gains for April

Americans spent briskly during the early spring months in the latest sign that they’re encouraged by the economic recovery.

Falling gas prices, a rallying stock market and gains in the job market all fueled Americans’ shopping habits even as cold weather tempered their desire to buy spring fashions.

Revenue at stores open at least a year — an industry measure of a store’s health because it excludes results from stores recently opened and closed — rose 4.7 percent in April compared with the same month a year ago, according to a preliminary tally of 12 retailers.

The survey was done by the International Council of Shopping Centers trade group.

– From staff and news services

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