In the Region

Pa. jobless rate falls on strength in most industries

Pennsylvania's unemployment rate fell by 0.2 of a percentage point in November to 8.6 percent as more residents found jobs and fewer were still seeking work, the state Department of Labor and Industry said Thursday. November's jobless rate was the lowest in the state since October 2009. Employment rose by 9,000 during the month, while the number unemployed fell by 13,000. However, some of the drop in unemployment came from a decline in the overall workforce of 5,000. Many of those people had stopped looking for jobs and weren't counted as unemployed. The state said eight of its 11 industry sectors showed growth in employment last month, paced by trade/transportation/utilities (up 3,600 jobs) and professional/business service (up 2,300). Construction, a field battered by the housing meltdown that began in 2007, gained 1,900 jobs. The leisure/hospitality sector lost 6,700 jobs, its biggest monthly loss since March 1993. - Paul Schweizer

Advanta wins a court extension

Advanta Corp., a Montgomery County credit-card company, resolved significant conflicts with the creditors' committee in its bankruptcy case and received an important extension at a court hearing Thursday in Wilmington. The extension gives Advanta the exclusive right to submit a bankruptcy plan until Jan. 5 and the sole right to solicit votes on a plan until March 4. That means creditors can vote on the plan Advanta submitted Nov. 2 and revised this week to gain creditors' support. -Harold Brubaker

Pa. gives OK to Peco rate increases

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission gave final approval for Peco Energy Co. to raise rates Jan. 1 for electricity and natural gas customers. For electric customers, the latest increase is on so-called distribution charges and is not related to the expiration of rate caps on the generation portion of bills, the PUC said in a statement. Separately, PPL Electric Utilities, Allentown, said the PUC approved rates for that company that, on balance, would keep electric bills about the same for existing PPL customers. - Reid Kanaley

Kimmel becomes Jones' nonexecutive chairman

Sidney Kimmel, the Philadelphia philanthropist and founder of the Jones Group Inc. apparel company, will transition from executive chairman to nonexecutive chairman of the company on Jan. 1, Jones announced. Kimmel founded Jones 40 years ago. It changed names from Jones Apparel Group in October to reflect its evolving portfolio of businesses, including Nine West shoes. The company has financial offices in Bristol Township, Bucks County, and headquarters in New York. - Reid Kanaley

Lincoln gains new chief financial officer

Lincoln National Corp. promoted Randal J. Freitag to chief financial officer from chief risk officer, effective Jan. 1. Freitag will succeed Frederick J. Crawford, who, as previously announced, will assume a new position as head of corporate development at the Radnor life insurance and annuity company. Freitag joined Lincoln in 1995. The company has $150 billion in in assets under management. - Harold Brubaker

Christie: Deal on A.C. changes is close at hand

Gov. Christie said the New Jersey Legislature could "give Atlantic City a Christmas present" by reaching agreement on changes designed to revive the gambling market. Christie said a deal could be worked out on Monday if the Assembly agrees to push back its Christmas vacation. Pending bills would create a state-run tourism district in Atlantic City, allow Internet and sports betting, reduce casino regulation, and allow smaller casinos to be built. - AP

Pa. grants for energy, pollution reduction

Through Pennsylvania's Small Business Advantage program, more than $560,000 in grants are going to 90 small companies to help them pay for improvements to reduce energy use and pollution. The program provides businesses of fewer than 100 employees 50 percent matching grants, of up to $7,500, to implement projects that will save at least 20 percent in pollution-prevention or energy-related costs annually. Since 2004, the program has invested $6.7 million in 1,220 businesses. - Diane Mastrull

Elsewhere

Some taxpayers may get higher bill

About 13.4 million taxpayers may be getting unexpected tax bills because they were awarded too much money under President Obama's Making Work Pay tax credit, according to a government audit released Thursday. The tax credit, which expires Jan. 1, was designed to increase take-home pay by about $8 a week through new tax-withholding tables. The credit was capped at $400 for individuals and $800 for married couples filing jointly. However, the credit put millions of taxpayers at risk for not having enough taxes withheld from their paychecks, resulting in a tax bill when they file their returns, said the audit by J. Russell George, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration. Those at risk included people with multiple jobs, married couples who both work, Social Security recipients who also work, and young workers who are also claimed as dependents on their parents' tax returns. - AP

U.S. calls on companies to set privacy rules

Internet companies such as Google Inc. and Facebook Inc. and consumer groups are being urged by U.S. officials to develop new privacy rules to protect online consumers or face regulations developed by the government. In a report released Thursday, the Commerce Department called for the web industry to write voluntary codes of conduct for protecting privacy that would be enforced by the Federal Trade Commission. Officials stopped short of calling for a privacy law and said if companies could not agree to a set of rules, it would ask the FTC to write regulations or for Congress to pass a law. - Bloomberg News

Leaders meet to deal with future financial crises

European Union leaders meeting in Brussels agreed Thursday to tweak EU treaties to set up a new mechanism to deal with future euro crises, amid pressure to come up with a comprehensive response to tackle the region's crippling debt woes. Moody's ratings agency on Thursday had a warning for troubled eurozone member Greece: a possible multi-notch downgrade of Greek bonds. The warning was the second this month, following a similar caution from Standard & Poor's. - AP