In the Region

Pa. unemployment rate down to 7.5%

Pennsylvania's unemployment rate continued to sink in April as employers added 23,700 jobs, the state

Department of Labor and Industry

said Thursday. The rate fell to 7.5 percent from 7.8 percent in March, the fourth straight monthly decline. All the jobs increases were in private industry, led by trade, transportation, utilities, professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, and manufacturing. Government cut 1,100 jobs last month.

- Paul Schweizer

N.J. reports more job growth

Employers in New Jersey added 14,000 jobs to payrolls in April, the third straight monthly gain, the state

Department of Labor and Workforce Development

reported. Virtually all of the new jobs came from the private sector, notably trade, transportation, utilities, manufacturing, education and health services, and leisure and hospitality. Government added the rest of the total. Even with the increase in jobs to 3.86 million, the state's unemployment rate last month was unchanged at 9.3 percent. That happened because previously discouraged workers reentered the labor force to look for work. They are counted as unemployed until they find jobs.

- Paul Schweizer

N.J. pension funds up 15.7%

New Jersey's pension funds gained 15.7 percent in the first nine months of this fiscal year as stocks and bonds rose, according to a report presented to the

State Investment Council

. Assets as of March 31 were $72.9 billion, a $2.1 billion increase since Dec. 31, according to a memo to the council from Timothy Walsh, director of the state

Treasury Department

's investment division. The council manages investments for seven pension funds for 800,000 working and retired teachers, police, firefighters, and other government employees.

- Bloomberg News

Area manufacturing slows

Manufacturing in the Philadelphia region unexpectedly grew in May at the slowest pace in seven months. The

Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia

's general economic index fell to 3.9, the weakest reading since October, from 18.5 a month earlier. Readings greater than zero signal expansion in eastern Pennsylvania, South Jersey, and Delaware. The median forecast of 59 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News called for an increase to 20. The employment index increased to 22.1 from 12.3 a month ago.

- Bloomberg News

Carlyle buying Triumph shares

Triumph Group Inc.

, Wayne, said 2.5 million shares of its common stock would be sold to the public by the

Carlyle Group

, an investment firm in Washington. The sale will leave Carlyle with a 20 percent stake in Triumph, which will not receive any proceeds. Triumph, which makes aircraft components and systems, had 24.5 million shares outstanding May 9, according to Bloomberg News.

- Paul Schweizer

NCO buys Fla. outsourcing firm

NCO Group Inc.

, Horsham, acquired

Protocol Global Solutions Inc.

, Sarasota, Fla., for an undisclosed amount. Both companies specialize in business process outsourcing services. NCO's president and chief executive officer, Ronald A. Rittenmeyer, said the purchase of Protocol, which has 2,200 employees, would enhance market penetration and abilities for growth in customer-relationship management. NCO has 30,000 employees.

- Diane Mastrull

Norristown company is sold

Emcor Group Inc.

, Norwalk, Conn., said in a statement that it had agreed to acquire

USM Services Holdings Inc.

, a Norristown provider of facilities maintenance services, for $255 million. The seller is

Transfield Services Ltd.

, an Australian provider of operations, asset management, and project management services. The transaction is expected to close toward the end of June, the statement said. USM has annual revenue of about $375 million.

- Inquirer staff

Elsewhere

Study faults owner in W.Va. coal blast

Massey Energy Co.

recklessly ignored safety and allowed dangerous conditions to build inside a West Virginia mine until a blast last year killed 29 men in the deadliest U.S. coal accident since 1970, according to an independent report. The report by a former top federal mine regulator, commissioned by the state's then-governor, said Massey could have prevented the April 5, 2010, disaster with standard safety practices, including better ventilation to reduce potentially explosive levels of gas and dust in the tunnels. The study supported the federal government's theory that methane gas mixed with huge volumes of explosive coal dust turned a small fireball into a preventable explosion. Massey said its experts continued to maintain that the explosion had been sparked by an uncontrollable inundation of natural gas deep inside the mine.

- AP

Barnes & Noble reports $1B bid

Barnes & Noble Inc.

said online retail, media, and communications conglomerate

Liberty Media Corp.

had offered to buy the bookseller for $17 a share in cash. That amounts to about $1.02 billion, based on the shares it had outstanding in March. The companies haven't signed an agreement, and the deal is subject to closing conditions, including one that founding chairman Leonard Riggio keep a stake in the company and remain in a management position, Barnes & Noble said.

- AP

CEO defends mascot Ronald

McDonald's Corp.

CEO Jim Skinner came out swinging when asked about Ronald McDonald and whether the burger chain hooked children with junk food. Skinner said at the company's annual shareholder meeting that newspapers ads Wednesday calling for Ronald's retirement had prompted an outpouring of support to his office. A group called

Corporate Accountability International

paid for the ads, which said Ronald was encouraging unhealthy eating habits and contributing to childhood obesity and related diseases such as diabetes.

- AP

Higher fuel costs spur route cuts

Delta Air Lines

,

Air France-KLM

, and

Alitalia

will sharply reduce flights across the Atlantic starting this fall, after airlines added too much flying on those routes just as fuel prices shot up. Delta and its partners said they would cut flying capacity by 7 percent to 9 percent starting this fall.

- AP