Business briefing

The daily business briefing: March 10, 2017

A strong jobs report reinforces the case for raising interest rates, Tillerson recuses himself from the Keystone XL pipeline decision, and more


U.S. economy adds 235,000 jobs in February, unemployment falls to 4.7 percent

The U.S. economy added 235,000 jobs in February, according to government data released Friday, beating economists' expectations in the first full month of the Trump presidency. The unemployment rate edged down to 4.7 percent from 4.8 percent in January, and wages rose by 6 cents to $26.09, rebounding from a disappointing 3-cent rise in January. Stock futures rose early Friday in anticipation of a strong government jobs report after a separate survey published earlier in the week by ADP and Moody's Analytics showed hiring blasting past forecasts. The gains were expected to strengthen the argument that the economy is strong enough for Federal Reserve policy makers to raise interest rates when they meet next week.


Tillerson recuses himself on Keystone XL pipeline decisions

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of the oil and gas giant ExxonMobil, has recused himself from all discussions about the Keystone XL pipeline, the State Department said Thursday in a letter to the environmental group Greenpeace. A State Department deputy legal adviser said in the letter that Tillerson made the decision in early February that he would not work "on issues related to TransCanada's application for a presidential permit" for the proposed pipeline, which the Obama administration halted but President Trump has revived. The letter was sent in response to one Greenpeace sent on Wednesday saying that Tillerson should recuse himself because his former company stood to benefit from the pipeline.


WikiLeaks' Assange vows to work with tech giants to prevent CIA hacking

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said Thursday that the anti-secrecy website would give leading technology powerhouses such as Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, and Google access to the leaked documents on Central Intelligence Agency hacking tools. Assange said WikiLeaks wanted to help the companies plug security holes that could allow the CIA to get private information from smartphones, computers, and internet-connected TVs. Microsoft and Cisco Systems said they welcome any help addressing security flaws. Alphabet's Google, Apple, Samsung, and Huawei did not respond to requests for comment.


Engineers give nation's infrastructure a D-plus

The American Society of Civil Engineers gave the nation's overall infrastructure a D-plus grade in its annual "infrastructure report card," released Thursday. That assessment, consistent with grades in recent years, came as President Trump works on keeping a promise to invest $1 trillion to rebuild the nation's highways, bridges, tunnels, and dams. The ASCE report says that getting all of the nation's outdated or failing infrastructure into acceptable shape by 2025 would cost $4.59 trillion, $2 trillion more than local, state, and federal governments have budgeted. The report recommends a big increase in gasoline taxes to cover the shortfall.


In shift, Americans are drinking more water than soda

For the first time in decades, Americans drank more bottled water than soda in 2016. A report by Beverage Marketing, a research and consulting company, released Thursday said annual sales of water exceeded soda sales as concerns grew about the health effects of sugary drinks and the safety of public-water supplies. Beverage Marketing Corp. found that in the U.S., consumption of bottled water hit 39.3 gallons per capita last year, up 7.7 percent from the year before, while soda sales were just 38.5 gallons, down 1.2 percent from the previous year. That marks a big switch from 2006, when Americans on average drank more than 50 gallons of soda and less than 30 gallons of water.


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