Around the World January 21, 2001

Photo Courtesy of Ryan Air
aroundworld.jpg STATE

Jobs jump 1.5 percent

JUNEAU -- The state Department of Labor reported jobs increased by 4,300 -- or 1.5 percent -- in October over the same time the previous year.

The job growth didn’t come from any one industry, but came from small gains in numerous industries statewide, according to a report in the January 2001 Alaska Economic Trends.

Statewide, the biggest gainers for the year ending in October were the services and miscellaneous industries with an increase of 2,400 jobs, 1,000 of which were in health services and 700 in the mining sector.

Statewide unemployment for October rose half a percentage point to 5.5 percent, but dropped 0.2 percentage points when compared with the same period the previous year.

Villages get EPA grants

WASHINGTON -- Seven Alaska Native villages are getting a total of more than $500,000 in grants from the Environmental Protection Agency for continuing work on environmental programs.

Communities receiving grants under the Indian Environment General Assistance Program include:

* $90,000 for the Native Village of Chignik

* $90,000 for the Native Village of Savoonga

* $90,000 for the Native Village of Port Heiden

* $82,740 for New Stuyahok Village

* $52,000 for the Wrangell Cooperative Association

* $65,218 for the Ninilchik Traditional Council

* $75,000 for the Kenaitze Indian tribe

Aquatic farmers file suit

ANCHORAGE -- A group of aquatic farm applicants has filed a lawsuit against the state charging that the Department of Fish and Game changed its policies preventing them from obtaining permits.

The lawsuit was filed in Ketchikan District Court by seven aquatic farmers who claim that Fish and Game is preventing them from operating geoduck clam farms in southern Southeast Alaska. At issue is whether farm applicants are entitled to harvest geoducks already on their farm sites, Amy Miller of Coastalaska radio reported.

Scott Thomas, one of the plaintiffs, said some of the farmers intentionally chose sites that had populations of geoducks because the law requires it.

"What the Department of Fish and Game did, is after we applied for these permits, they went out and did surveys," Thomas said. "They wanted to see what was there. And they found that there was lots of Geoduck clams in some of these areas. And they said, ’this is a bunch of clams, and you guys are going to make a bunch of money, and we don’t think that you guys should be able to do that.’ And we said, ’well this is exactly what the law says we have to do.’ We have to apply for areas that are suitable for the species that we are intending to cultivate."

According to the state attorney general’s office, state law doesn’t require that a proposed site have an existing stock.

Lawmaker wants new Capitol

JUNEAU -- An Anchorage Republican has reintroduced a bill calling for a new building for the state Legislature.

The bill by Rep. Norm Rokeberg would direct a panel of lawmakers to write specifications for construction of a new legislative hall by Dec. 15, 2001.

Rokeberg has said the Capitol is unsafe because corridors are obstructed by copiers and other equipment too large to store in already cluttered offices.

The measure also says the building’s wiring is inadequate, its heating system is antiquated and chambers and public galleries are too small.

Rokeberg offered an identical measure last session, but it died in committee.


Consumer sales slump

WASHINGTON -- Inflation at the wholesale level remained tame in December despite a record surge in natural gas prices, but shoppers’ caution translated into a weak rise in holiday retail sales.

Supporting the view that the economy has slowed significantly, the Commerce Department said Jan. 12 that retail sales in December rose by just 0.1 percent. Overall activity was held back by a big 0.6 percent plunge in sales at department stores, reflecting a disappointing Christmas season as falling consumer confidence dampened shopping.

In addition to reporting weak December activity, the government revised down its estimate of sales in the previous two months, showing an even steeper 0.5 percent plunge in October.

Mortgage rates fall

WASHINGTON -- Mortgage rates declined last week with rates for 30-year and 15-year mortgages hitting their lowest levels in 21 months.

The average interest rate on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages fell to 6.89 percent, down from 7.07 percent earlier.

A year ago, the rate on 30-year mortgages stood at 8.18 percent and was rising. In mid-May, rates on 30-year mortgages hit a five-year high of 8.64 percent.

Fifteen-year mortgages, a popular option for refinancing, declined to 6.49 percent, down from 6.74 percent. A year ago, 15-year mortgages averaged 7.78 percent.

The 30-year mortgage rates were the lowest since April 23, 1999, when they averaged 6.88 percent. The 15-year rates were the lowest since April 16, 1999, when they averaged 6.47 percent.


BP Amoco to sell 2 units

LONDON -- BP Amoco PLC plans to sell two chemicals businesses in a move away from product manufacturing, the oil and gas company announced Jan. 11.

The U.S.-based fabrics and fibers unit and the Europe-based plastic fabrications unit are to be sold by the end of the year, BP Amoco spokesman David Nicholas said.

"This move is all about our chemical strategy," Nicholas said, adding that the two units do not fit with a plan to limit the company’s focus to producing fossil fuel-related materials.

The businesses, which have a combined annual turnover of about $1 billion, produce a range of products, primarily from polyethylene and polypropylene.

Compiled from business wire services.

01/20/2001 - 8:00pm