Last Update on December 06, 2013 18:16 GMT
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A fourth straight month of solid hiring cut the U.S. unemployment rate to a five-year low of 7 percent in November, an encouraging sign for the economy.
The Labor Department says employers added 203,000 jobs, nearly matching October's revised gain of 200,000. The job gains helped lower the unemployment rate from 7.3 percent in October.
The strengthening job market is likely to fuel speculation that the Federal Reserve may start to scale back its bond purchases when it meets later this month.
The economy has now generated an average of 204,000 jobs from August through November. That's up from 159,000 a month from April through July.
Many of the November job gains were in higher-paying industries. Manufacturers added 27,000 positions, the most since March 2012. Construction firms gained 17,000.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. consumers increased their spending in October even though their wages and salaries barely increased, raising questions about how strong the economy will grow at the end of the year.
The Commerce Department says consumer spending increased 0.3 percent in October compared with September when spending rose 0.2 percent. Wages and salaries rose a slight 0.1 percent after a much stronger 1 percent rise in September.
Overall income actually fell 0.1 percent following a 0.5 percent rise in September. But September's gain was inflated by a legal settlement that boosted farm income that month, leading to a big decline in farm income in October.
The personal saving rate dipped to 4.8 percent of after-tax income in October, down from 5.2 percent in September, reflecting the difference between spending and income.
HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. (AP) -- Sears Holdings Corp. says it will spin off its Lands' End clothing business as a separate company.
The retailer plans to distribute shares in Lands' End to its current shareholders.
Sears has spun off other businesses, including its Hometown and Sears Outlet stores, to raise cash.
Sears Chairman Edward Lampert disclosed recently that his stake in the company has been reduced to less than 50 percent as investors pulled money out of his hedge fund.
Sears and the company's Kmart chain have struggled as rivals have lured away customers over the years.
Sears said earlier this fall that it was considering separating the Lands' End and Sears Auto Center businesses from the rest of the company. It did not mention Sears Auto Center in Friday's announcement.
SUPREME COURT-SOFTWARE PATENTS
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court will hear an appeal of a lower court decision that a federal judge called the "death" of software patents.
Justices will take up an appeal from lawyers representing the Alice Corp. in its attempt to patent computer-implemented escrow systems, software, and methods.
Abstract ideas, natural phenomena and laws of nature cannot be patented. A closely-divided U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit told the company the patents couldn't be granted.
But a dissenting judge called the decision "the death of hundreds of thousands of patents, including all business method, financial system, and software patents."
The Supreme Court said Friday it would review the decision. Justices will hear the case next year.
AT&T says it doesn't have to disclose NSA dealings
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- AT&T says it isn't required to disclose to shareholders what it does with customers' communications data despite complaints that the telecom giant has been sharing and selling that information to federal intelligence agencies including the National Security Agency.
In a letter sent Thursday to the Securities and Exchange Commission, AT&T said it protects customer information and complies with government requests for records "only to the extent required by law."
AT&T's letter was a response to a Nov. 20 shareholder revolt sparked by the New York State Common Retirement Fund, the ACLU of Northern California and others. The groups are demanding that AT&T and Verizon be more transparent about their dealings with the NSA.
Nicole Ozer of the ACLU says "it's outrageous that AT&T is trying to block the shareholder proposal."
BARNES & NOBLE-SEC PROBE
Barnes & Noble shares fall on SEC probe
UNDATED (AP) -- Shares of Barnes & Noble fell on Friday after the company said it was cooperating in a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into its accounting.
The SEC told the bookseller Oct. 16 that it was investigating the company's restatement of earnings announced in July as well as an employee allegation that it improperly allocated some information-technology expenses between its Nook and retail segments, according to a filing made after the market closed Thursday.
Barnes & Noble has been working on a turnaround in the face of tough competition and customers increasingly choosing digital books, music and video.
WIND ENERGY-EAGLE DEATHS
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration is letting wind energy companies apply for 30-year permits that would excuse them for killing, injuring or harassing eagles at wind farms and other projects.
The reason is to aid in renewable energy development.
The wind energy industry asked for the change. It will provide legal protection for wind farms and other projects that get a permit and do everything possible to avoid killing eagles.
Companies already can apply for 5-year permits to injure, harass, or kill bald and golden eagles.
But despite an AP investigation and federal studies documenting eagle deaths, not a single wind energy company has obtained a permit as required by law.
Conservation groups are aligned with the wind industry on other issues.
They say the decision sanctions the killing of an American symbol.
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (AP) -- Genetic testing company 23andMe says it is complying with a Food and Drug Administration directive to stop selling health-related genetic tests during a regulatory review.
The Mountain View, Calif., company said late Thursday that it will continue to provide ancestry-related information to customers and raw genetic data without interpretation. Customers who bought kits since the FDA order came out last month will be eligible for refunds.
23andMe Inc. sells the health-related tests as a way to help users predict their risk of developing various diseases. But last month, the FDA ordered the company to stop sales. It says 23andMe has failed to show that the technology is supported by science.
23andMe sells its tests online. Customers receive a small tube in the mail, which they return to the company with a saliva sample for DNA analysis.