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Business News

Last Update on September 04, 2015 18:06 GMT

ECONOMY

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The unemployment rate tumbled to a seven-year low in August as employers added a modest 173,000 jobs, complicating the U.S. Federal Reserve's decision whether to raise rates in two weeks.

The Labor Department says the unemployment rate fell to 5.1 percent from 5.3 percent, the lowest since April 2008.

Hiring in August was the weakest in five months, but the government revised up the June and July figures by a combined 44,000 jobs. The economy generated 221,000 jobs a month from June through August, up from an average 189,000 in March through May.

Steady hiring could encourage the Fed to raise rates for the first time in a decade. Still, stock market turbulence, a persistently low inflation rate and a sharp slowdown in China could weigh on officials.

LABOR DAY GASOLINE PRICES

CHICAGO (AP) -- For the first time in a decade, the average price for a gallon of gas is below $2.50 for the final summer getaway of the season.

Patrick DeHaan, who's a senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy.com, says the national average is $2.42 a gallon. That's 20 cents lower than a month ago and about a dollar less than a year ago.

DeHaan adds that gas prices could be under $2.00 a gallon by Christmas, with GasBuddy.com predicting a nationwide average of $1.98 a gallon.

GERMANY-ECONOMY

BERLIN (AP) -- German factory orders dropped a larger than expected 1.4 percent in July compared to the previous month, dragged down by flagging foreign demand.

The Federal Statistical Office reported Friday that it revised June's 2 percent increase downward to a rise of 1.8 percent, adjusted for seasonal and calendar factors.

In July, domestic orders increased by 4.1 percent but foreign orders decreased 5.2 percent. New orders from the euro currency area were up 2.2 percent, but new orders from other countries dropped 9.5 percent.

UniCredit economist Andreas Rees says the July drop, greater than the 0.6 percent drop predicted by analysts, seems more of a "technical breather after a strong rally" than a matter for concern.

Rees says the strong rises in both eurozone and domestic demand are "outright positive details."

USDA PROMOTIONAL PROGRAMS-CONTROVERSY

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Agriculture Department says it is looking into documents that show that an egg industry organization under government oversight tried to harm sales of an imitation mayonnaise.

According to email documents provided to The Associated Press, the American Egg Board tried to prevent Whole Foods retailers from selling Hampton Creek's eggless Just Mayo spread.

The egg board is one of many industry promotional boards overseen by USDA but paid for by the industries themselves. By law, the boards cannot disparage other commodities.

A USDA spokesman said the department is looking into the documents but declined to say if it would take action.

The egg industry board is only the latest to draw scrutiny. In 2012, USDA's inspector general issued a report saying department needed to improve oversight of the programs.

FLORIDA TIMBER BOOM

LIVE OAK, Fla. (AP) -- The demand for pine, pulp and other timber products is on the rise and that is good sign for much of north Florida and for other timber-producing regions of the southeastern United States.

Dozens of lumber mills and pine straw, bark and wood pellet processing plants have located in north Florida in recent years. Industry experts say the region's warm, moist climate and soil composition allow pine trees to thrive.

Lumber supply issues in the American northwest and in Canada have prompted companies to look to the Southeast. Issues with wood boring beetles and restrictions on cutting timber in federal land have contributing to the supply issues in the northwest and Canada.

Among those banking on Florida's timber is industry is the Austrian company Klausner, which recently opened a $100 million mill in Live Oak.

TOYOTA-SMARTER CARS

EAST PALO ALTO, Calif. (AP) -- Toyota is investing $50 million with Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in hopes of gaining an edge in an accelerating race to phase out human drivers.

The financial commitment announced Friday will be made over the next five years at joint research centers at the schools located in Silicon Valley and another technology hub in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Toyota has hired robotics expert Gill Pratt to oversee research aimed at developing artificial intelligence and other innovations that will enable future car models to navigate the roads without people doing all the steering and stopping.

Major tech companies such as Google and Uber are competing against a range of automakers to make robot cars that will be better drivers than people and save lives by causing fewer accidents.

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