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Today in business: 5 things you need to know
Toyota, Honda, and Nissan recall cars, PC sales plummet, and more in our roundup of the business stories that are making news and driving opinion
 
Toyota is recalling several models, including the Corolla, Tundra, and Lexus SC.
Toyota is recalling several models, including the Corolla, Tundra, and Lexus SC. Sara Caldwell/Staff/ZUMA Press/Corbis

1. BIRD FLU FEARS SLAM KFC SALES IN CHINA
The latest deadly avian flu outbreak will have a "significant, negative impact" on April sales at KFC chicken restaurants in China, KFC's parent company, Yum Brands, said in a regulatory filing on Wednesday. China is Yum's most lucrative market, so the problem threatens to snap Yum's 11-year streak of double-digit profit growth. The new strain of bird flu has killed nine people in China. The World Health Organization has assured people that cooked chicken is safe, but many customers are taking no chances. "I avoid eating chicken these days," one Shanghai woman in her 20s said. "Not only KFC, but also McDonald's and so on." [Reuters]
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2. JAPANESE AUTOMAKERS ANNOUNCE RECALL OVER AIR BAGS
Toyota, Honda, and Nissan are recalling more than 3.4 million vehicles worldwide to fix a problem with their passenger-side air bags. The cars were manufactured between 2000 and 2004, and were fitted with air bags made by Japan's Takata Corp. The air bags have an inflator that could burst, sending plastic pieces flying. No injuries have been reported, but Toyota — which is recalling several models, including the Corolla, Tundra, Lexus SC — said it had received five reports of air-bag malfunctions. The problems stemmed from two human errors — a worker forgot to turn on a system for spotting defects, and some parts were exposed to too much humidity because they were improperly stored. [CBS News]
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3. JOBLESS CLAIMS DIP MORE THAN FORECAST
New applications for unemployment benefits fell sharply last week, the Labor Department said Thursday. The figure was better than expected — the number fell 346,000, instead of the 365,000 economists surveyed by Briefing.com predicted. The decline came after an unexpected increase in jobless claims the week before, to an adjusted 388,000. Analysts said the volatility isn't unusual in spring, when the Easter and spring breaks tend to distort employment figures. Still, the more stable four-week average has returned to levels seen in 2007 and early 2008, before the Great Recession, suggesting that companies are laying off fewer people as the economy slowly improves. [CNN]
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4. PC SALES PLUMMET
Sales of personal computers dropped by 14 percent in the first three months of 2013 compared to the same period last year, according to newly released figures from research firm IDC, and some analysts are blaming Microsoft's Windows 8 for the slump. With the economy improving somewhat, analysts had expected a decline of just 7.7 percent. The October release of Microsoft's Windows 8 was also expected to boost PC sales. But the software got a lukewarm reception and appears to have actually hurt sales, by confusing PC users, IDC says. [Telegraph]
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5. EMPLOYEE HEALTH COVERAGE CAPS DECADE-LONG DECLINE
The number of Americans covered by health plans at work declined steadily over the last decade, according to a study released Thursday by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Overall, 11.5 million people lost or declined coverage under their employers' health plans from 2000 to 2011. The decline pushed the share of the workforce with employer-sponsored coverage under 60 percent. One major factor was the rise in health-care costs, with premiums doubling for single workers to more than $5,000. The increase was even steeper for family coverage, with premiums jumping from $6,400 in 2000 to $14,400 in 2011. [Colorado Springs Gazette]

 
Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami HeraldFox News, and ABC News.

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