In the Region

Unemployment down here in March

Unemployment in the Philadelphia region fell to 8.2 percent in March from 8.7 percent in February, the U.S. Labor Department said. The rate was down from 8.5 percent in March 2012. The metro figures from the department's Bureau of Labor Statistics are not seasonally adjusted. Rates were lower in March than a year earlier in 306 of the 372 metropolitan areas surveyed, higher in 44 areas, and unchanged in 22. The department will report national unemployment figures for April on Friday. - Reid Kanaley

Obama signs FAA relief legislation

President Obama signed into law legislation giving the Federal Aviation Administration authority to shift funds to eliminate air-traffic controller furloughs, the White House announced. The furloughs were suspended April 27 following congressional passage of the measure to let the FAA work around across-the-board spending cuts that kicked in last month. The law lets the FAA move as much as $253 million within its budget to end furloughs, or unpaid days off. It also gives the FAA enough flexibility to avert the planned June 15 closing of 149 small-airport control towers operated by agency contractors, including towers at Trenton-Mercer Airport in New Jersey and the Latrobe and Lancaster airports in Pennsylvania. The House cleared the legislation, 361-41, Friday after the Senate unanimously passed the bipartisan bill the previous night. - Bloomberg News

Hospital merger completed

Catholic Health East and Trinity Health said they completed a merger that was announced in October, forming a system that has 82 hospitals and operates in 21 states, the nonprofit health systems said. The combined operation, with about $13 billion in operating revenue, does not yet have a name. It will be headquartered at Trinity's offices in Livonia, Mich. Catholic Health East's headquarters in Newtown Square will become a divisional office. A health system official said it was too soon to say whether jobs would be lost at the Delaware County site, where more 500 worked in October. Catholic Health East's Philadelphia-area hospitals include St. Mary in Langhorne, Our Lady of Lourdes in Camden, and Mercy Fitzgerald in Darby. - Harold Brubaker

PREIT prices 10M shares

Shopping mall owner Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, or PREIT, said it priced an offering of 10 million common shares at $20 per share and expects net proceeds of $191.5 million from the sale. The company intends to use the funds to pay debt and for general corporate purposes. The offering is expected to close May 6, Philadelphia-based PREIT said. Book-running managers for the offering are Wells Fargo Securities, BofA Merrill Lynch, Citigroup, and J.P. Morgan, PREIT said. The underwriters have a 30-day option to buy up to 1.5 million additional shares. If they do, net funds to PREIT will be $220.3 million. - Reid Kanaley

Bank marks first profit since 2008

After 18 straight quarterly losses, Royal Bancshares of Pennsylvania Inc. reported $118,000 in net income for the three months ended March 31, the Narberth bank reported. Cost cuts helped break the string of losses stretching back to 2008. In the quarter, Royal laid off 9 percent of its workforce and reduced discretionary expenses by 10 percent on an annualized basis. The bank employed 152 on a full-time-equivalent basis at the end of last year. On March 31, Royal had $531 million in deposits and $344 million in loans outstanding. Royal's shares closed up a penny, to $1.36 on Nasdaq. - Harold Brubaker


Wheeler named to head FCC

President Obama named Tom Wheeler, a venture capitalist and former leader of cable and wireless trade groups, to head the Federal Communications Commission, where he may focus on nurturing mobile technology. Wheeler, 67, managing director at Core Capital Partners L.P. in Washington, succeeds Chairman Julius Genachowski, a Democrat who has pushed to expand access to high-speed Internet service. Wheeler needs Senate confirmation before joining the FCC, where he will guide policy responding to rapid change as smartphones and high-speed data lines upend markets, with voice traffic shifting from copper wires to airwaves and the Internet, and video moving to the Web. - Bloomberg News

Penney issues apology to customers

J.C. Penney Co. issued a public "mea culpa" that the mid-priced department-store put on its YouTube and Facebook pages. In the ad, titled "It's no secret," a voice-over states, "Recently J.C. Penney changed. Some changes you liked, and some you didn't. But what matters with mistakes is what we learn. We learned a very simple thing, to listen to you." The ad comes after the company last month fired CEO, Ron Johnson, after 17 months on the job and rehired his predecessor, Mike Ullman. Johnson's changes included getting rid of most sales and bringing in hip brands to attract younger, wealthier shoppers in a bid to reinvent the stodgy retailer, but sales plummeted. "Come back to J.C. Penney. We heard you, now we'd love to see you," the voice-over states. - AP

Sales climb for carmakers

Ford, GM, Chrysler, and Nissan all reported double-digit U.S. sales increases last month, signaling the best April for car and truck sales in six years. A rebound in pickup sales led the way, especially for the Detroit automakers. Small businesses are replacing aging trucks that they had kept since the recession began. Ford's sales increased 18 percent, with the F-series pickup gaining 24 percent. At Chrysler, sales rose 11 percent, led by the Ram pickup, with a 49 percent sales increase. GM also saw an 11 percent sales jump, with Chevrolet Silverado pickup sales rising 28 percent for the month. - AP