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Roundup: Mortgage delinquencies hit low; employers reduce hiring; more

| Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Mortgage delinquency rate at a 4-year low

Homeowners who took on mortgages well after the housing bubble burst are doing a better job keeping up with payments. Credit reporting agency TransUnion said Tuesday the trend is bringing down the mortgage delinquency rate to the lowest level in four years. TransUnion says the percentage of mortgage holders at least two months behind on their payments fell to 5.19 percent in the last three months of 2012. That's down nearly 14 percent since the last three months of 2011. The late-payment rate on mortgages has improved because of several factors, including rising home prices and low interest rates that make it easier for homeowners to refinance and lower their payments. Before the housing bust, mortgage delinquencies were running at less than 2 percent nationally.

Employers cut back on hiring but decrease layoffs by million

Employers advertised fewer jobs in December and cut back on hiring, suggesting many were cautious at the end of the year. The Labor Department says job openings dropped 4.6 percent in December from November to 3.62 million. November's openings were revised higher. Employers hired 4.2 million people, a 4.8 percent drop and the fewest in a year. One positive sign: Employers cut just 1.57 million jobs, the fewest layoffs on records dating back to 2001. About 12.2 million people were unemployed in December. That means there were 3.4 unemployed people, on average, competing for each open job. In a healthy economy, the ratio is roughly 2 to 1.

Government seeks changesfor malt liquor Four Loko

The makers of a popular carbonated alcoholic drink guzzled on college campuses are going to be changing the look of its Four Loko cans to settle the government's charges of deceptive marketing. The Federal Trade Commission said Tuesday that Chicago-based Phusion Projects will be required to put an “alcohol facts panel” on the back of flavored malt beverage cans containing more than two servings of alcohol. The panel would disclose the alcohol by volume and the number of servings in the container. Phusion also will have to redesign cans of drinks containing more than 2 12 servings of alcohol so they can be resealed and the drink wouldn't have to be consumed in one sitting. The Four Loko product is produced at City Brewing Co. LLC's Latrobe brewery. The FTC had accused Phusion of implying in ads that its supersized 23.5-ounce can of Four Loko was equal to one or two regular 12-ounce beers. In fact, the agency says, the can is really more like four to five beers. Company co-founder Jaisen Freeman said Phusion did not agree with the allegations but settled the case to move forward.

Westinghouse begins design of prototype fuel assemblies

Westinghouse Electric Co., Cranberry, said its engineering design team in Columbia, S.C., has started fabricating prototype fuel assemblies to test the nuclear power company's small modular reactor design. The fuel design technology is based on the fuel for Westinghouse's much-larger AP1000 nuclear reactors it is building in China. The company will test the full-scale fuel assemblies with a simulated small modular reactor in operation as part of the design certification application Westinghouse will submit to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Roughly the size of a bus, a small modular reactor would produce 225 megawatts of electricity.

Gas prices up 3rd consecutive week in Western Pennsylvania

Motorists in Western Pennsylvania are seeing higher gasoline prices for the third consecutive week, AAA East Central said. The average price for regular was $3.747 on Tuesday, up 6.9 cents from last week. Prices are rising across the country, primarily driven by refinery troubles and temporary shutdowns related to an approaching switch-over to summer-blend gas. The national average on Tuesday was $3.60, up from $3.53 last week. Across the region, prices ranged from $3.845 in Jeannette to $3.643 in Warren.

Site preparations start on Super Wal-Mart in Beaver County

A Super Wal-Mart, expected to have 440 employees, is scheduled to open by year-end in Economy Borough, Beaver County. Work has begun on the site behind the Northern Light Shopping Center, said Economy Mayor David Poling. He said he expects the $40 million Wal-Mart will include an auto center along with its traditional grocery and other retail items. Wal-Mart is expected to build a new road, costing $3 million, into the site, he said. Wal-Mart officials did not immediately return calls for comment Tuesday. On Feb. 1, Wal-Mart opened a superstore that employs 210 people in West Brownsville in Washington County.

Job fair coming to Greensburg

Job seekers will be able to meet with regional employers on Feb. 22 at the WANT Job and Career Expo at the Ramada Greensburg Hotel and Conference Center. The free event will run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and those attending can learn about job opportunities, submit resumes and interview for full- or part-time, summer and internship positions. To register or learn more, go to www.wantexpo.org or call 724-836-7182. The WANT Consortium, which stands for Westmoreland Assists Native Talent, is a collaborative effort among local colleges and universities.

— Staff and wire reports

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