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Today in business: 5 things you need to know
The unemployment rate falls, Google cuts jobs at Motorola, and more in our roundup of the business stories that are making news and driving opinion
 
Motorola's workforce is taking a big hit under Google's Eric Schmidt.
Motorola's workforce is taking a big hit under Google's Eric Schmidt. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

1. NEW JOBS BRING UNEMPLOYMENT TO LOWEST LEVEL SINCE 2008
The Labor Department on Friday reported that the economy added 236,000 jobs in February, bringing the unemployment rate to 7.7 percent, down from 7.9 percent in January. The jobless rate is now at its lowest level since December 2008 — before Barack Obama was sworn in for his first term as president. The report was almost uniformly positive, greatly outpaced analysts' expectations, and bolstered optimism that the labor market could finally escape the years-long pattern of plodding improvement that has so far characterized the economic recovery. "It's an outstanding report," says TD Bank Group economist Craig Alexander. "Not only are the headlines good but the details are good as well." [Washington Post]
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2. GOOGLE SLASHES JOBS AT MOTOROLA
Google is laying off 1,200 employees at its Motorola Mobility unit. The cuts amount to 10 percent of the Motorola workforce. The internet search giant had already eliminated 4,000 Motorola jobs when it acquired the company in August. The latest move reinforces the impression some had that Google was more interested in Motorola's patents than its products. Motorola staffers got the latest news in a company email saying that "our costs are too high, we're operating in markets where we're not competitive and we're losing money." [Ars Technica, Wall Street Journal]
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3. DISNEY UNVEILS NEW LOOK AT OZ
Walt Disney Co. is putting its strategy of making new films out of classic stories to the test, with the Friday opening of Oz the Great and Powerful. The studio spent $225 million to tell the backstory of the wizard — a circus con artist named Oscar Biggs — who figured prominently in The Wizard of Oz, the 1939 classic adapted from the L. Frank Baum books. "Disney seems to be collecting every myth, legend and fantasy in the Western world with Marvel, the Muppets, Winnie the Pooh, and Star Wars," say UCLA film historian Jonathan A. Kuntz. "It's no surprise they've grabbed onto Oz." Boxoffice.com projects $75 million in opening weekend U.S. ticket sales. [Bloomberg]
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4. JC PENNEY CUTS JOBS AS SALES PLUMMET
JC Penney is eliminating another 2,200 jobs — after cutting 19,000 in the past year — as CEO Ron Johnson's revamp of the department store chain sends sales plummeting. Johnson has been upgrading many of Penney's 1,100 stores, turning them into essentially a collection of boutiques. Some of his moves have backfired, though. Johnson's attempt to transition away from sales and coupons to consistent low prices has reportedly driven away some customers, who enjoyed hunting for limited-time bargains. [Bloomberg]
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5. CHINA'S EXPORTS SURGE UNEXPECTEDLY
New data from China showed that the country's exports jumped by 21.8 percent in February, crushing expectations. Analysts had expected a single-digit increase. The surge could be a sign of strengthening global demand. Offsetting the news: China's imports were surprisingly weak, falling 15 percent from a year earlier. On balance, analysts said, the data at least suggest that the world's second biggest economy is continuing on the path to recovery in 2013, after finishing strong in 2012. [Associated Press, Reuters]

 
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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