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Business in brief

Mass. unemployment rate falls, despite job losses

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May 16, 2008

Massachusetts companies cut about 2,400 jobs in April, ending a six-month streak of gains, the state Department of Workforce Development said. The state unemployment rate, however, dropped to 4.1 percent from 4.4 percent in March, lower than the US rate of 5 percent, and the lowest since September 2001. In Massachusetts in April, education and healthcare added 3,200 jobs for 14,500 over the past year. Information employment, which includes software publishers, rose 300, for 1,600 jobs in the past year. Professional and business services shed 600 jobs, but has gained 7,400 over the year. Construction employment fell 900 jobs, down 3,400 over the past year. Retailers cut 1,000 jobs for 3,100 since April 2007. Overall, state employment has grown by 23,000 jobs over the past year, or just under 1 percent. The state still has 93,000 fewer jobs than in early 2001. (Robert Gavin)

Gasoline more dear now than in '81 energy crisis
Average gasoline prices in the Boston area in April topped the inflation-adjusted prices of the energy crisis of the early 1980s, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said. The average price of all types of gasoline hit $3.34 a gallon in April, about 7 cents more than the inflation-adjusted price of March 1981, when prices peaked in the aftermath of the Iranian revolution. But in 2008 dollars, unleaded regular cost $3.45 a gallon in 1981, compared to $3.31 in April, the BLS said. Nationally, the average price hit $3.49 a gallon, 15 cents more than in Boston and 12 cents above the inflation-adjusted price in March 1981. Unleaded regular prices average $3.44, 13 cents more than in Boston and 4 cents above the inflation-adjusted 1981 price. The average price of a gallon of regular unleaded in Massachusetts last week was $3.68, according to federal data. (Robert Gavin)

Cambridge recycler raises $14m in venture funding
A Cambridge company developing algae farms to recycle carbon dioxide from industrial emissions and provide feedstock for biofuels and other products said it raised nearly $14 million in venture capital. GreenFuel Technologies Corp. said it is using the money to further develop its farming technology and move toward commercial operations. The lead investors in this round are Access Private Equity, of New York, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, of Menlo Park, Calif., and Polaris Venture Partners, of Boston. (Robert Gavin)

Sepracor chief financial officer to resign next week
Sepracor Inc.'s chief financial officer, David Southwell, said he is resigning next week after 14 years to pursue "other entrepreneurial activities." Sepracor will replace him with Robert Scumaci, its executive vice president for corporate finance. The Marlborough drug maker is best known for its Lunesta sleep aid and Xopenex asthma drug. (Todd Wallack)

BRA gives OK to 27-story tower set for Chinatown
The Boston Redevelopment Authority approved developer Ori Ron's plan to build a 27-story residential tower at 120 Kingston St. in Chinatown, current site of the Dainty Dot building, which will be demolished. Ground-floor retail space and 147 residential units will abut the Chinatown Park, part of the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway. The project, which put the Chinatown and neighboring Leather District communities in conflict, was reduced in height twice, and its developer will help fund an affordable housing project with 47 units on Oxford Street, which was also approved. (Thomas C. Palmer Jr.)

Kennedy Greenway Conservancy bill advances
The Legislature's joint committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture sent to the House a bill that would set regulation of the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway conservancy, the private nonprofit group that oversees the city's new corridor of parks. The bill has several changes from when first proposed, including reducing the conservancy's lease over the land from 99 years to an initial period of 20 years. A proposed $10 million start-up payment from the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority has been scrapped, with a $2 million contribution from the state instead. (Thomas C. Palmer Jr.)

Tentative contract avoids strike at nuclear plant
The owner of the Pilgrim nuclear plant in Plymouth and the union representing about 250 workers reached a contract agreement just hours before the current pact was to expire at midnight, averting a threatened strike and lockout, following tense negotiations between the Utility Workers Union of America, Local 369, and Entergy Corp., of New Orleans. The union held a strike vote Wednesday, while Entergy had replacement workers ready. Union officials said the proposed pact would increase wages but declined to disclose specifics. Union members vote next Friday. (Robert Gavin)

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