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Business/Economy

  • US economy adds just 88K jobs, rate drops to 7.6 pct.

    WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. employers added just 88,000 jobs in March, the fewest in nine months and a sharp retreat after a period of strong hiring. The slowdown may signal that the economy is losing what momentum it had.

    The Labor Department said Friday that the unemployment rate dipped to 7.6 percent, the lowest in four years, from 7.7 percent. But the rate fell only because more people stopped looking for work. People who are out of work are no longer counted as unemployed once they stop looking for a job.

    The percentage of Americans working or looking for jobs fell to 63.3 percent in March, the lowest such figure in nearly 34 years.

    Stocks plummeted after the report. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 157 points in morning trading. Broader indexes also declined.

    March's job gains were less than half the average of the previous six months, when the economy added an average of 196,000 jobs a month. The government said hiring was even stronger in January and February than previously estimated. January's job growth was revised up from 119,000 to 148,000. February's was revised from 236,000 to 268,000.

  • Governor vetoes increase in NM minimum wage

    SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Republican Gov. Susana Martinez has vetoed a proposal by the Democratic-controlled Legislature that would have increased New Mexico's minimum wage to the fourth highest in the nation.

    Martinez followed through on an earlier threat and rejected the measure on Friday that would have boosted the minimum wage to $8.50 an hour from $7.50. The governor said the proposed increase would have cost the state jobs.

    Martinez reiterated that she would have signed an increase in the hourly wage rate to $7.80, making it the same as Arizona's minimum wage.

    Martinez is up for re-election in 2014, and Democrats likely will try to use the minimum wage veto against her.

    Only Washington, Oregon and Vermont have minimum wages higher than $8.50 an hour. Washington is the highest at $9.19 an hour.

  • Study: Health overhaul to raise claims cost 32 pct

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Insurance companies will have to pay out an average of 32 percent more for medical claims on individual health policies under President Barack Obama's overhaul, the nation's leading group of financial risk analysts has estimated.

    That's likely to increase premiums for at least some Americans buying individual plans.

    The report by the Society of Actuaries could turn into a big headache for the Obama administration at a time when many parts of the country remain skeptical about the Affordable Care Act.

    While some states will see medical claims costs per person decline, the report concluded the overwhelming majority will see double-digit increases in their individual health insurance markets, where people purchase coverage directly from insurers.

    The disparities are striking. By 2017, the estimated increase would be 62 percent for California, about 80 percent for Ohio, more than 20 percent for Florida and 67 percent for Maryland. Much of the reason for the higher claims costs is that sicker people are expected to join the pool, the report said.

    The report did not make similar estimates for employer plans, the mainstay for workers and their families. That's because the primary impact of Obama's law is on people who don't have coverage through their jobs.

  • Workers to petition governor for minimum wage hike

    SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A group called Working America says it will be in Santa Fe Monday to try and persuade Gov. Susana Martinez to sign a minimum wage increase.

    The group says it will deliver thousands of photo petitions and petition signatures to the governor's office in support of a just-passed Senate Bill to increase the state's minimum wage from $7.50 to $8.50 an hour.

    Martinez has said she opposes the bill because it would make the state's minimum wage the fourth highest in the nation. She says she told lawmakers she would support raising the minimum wage to $7.80 an hour, the same as Arizona, but that the full dollar-an-hour increase was simply unsustainable.

  • Randall gets set to take LACDC reins

    Scott Randall is no stranger to success, but some of his wins have been hard-fought and fraught with political pitfalls.

    Randall’s career is about to take a different tack when he steps in to replace Kevin Holsapple as the executive director of the Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation April 1.

    “What we liked was his record of success in economic development in several communities, and the fact that those communities were often about the size of Los Alamos or had some of the similar issues that we’ve had from the standpoint of economic development,” said LACDC board member Bill Wadt, who led the search team.

    Randall himself gave the economic development aspect of the position as his top reason for wanting the job.

    “I was attracted to the whole mission and the whole function of the organization. Economic development has been a cornerstone of my career,” Randall said.”While I’ve been in city management and public administration for 38 years, economic development has been my passion.”

    Wadt highlighted some of Randall’s accomplishments that particularly attracted the board.

  • Local artists find a home

    Art and culture are woven into the fabric of the Los Alamos community and up until a few years ago, the town did not have a fine art gallery to call its own.

    In 2008, local artist Karen Wray set out to fill that void by opening her gallery, Karen Wray’s Fine Art, in its original location off Trinity Drive. She filled the studio with her own artwork and began to offer painting classes to anyone who might be interested — encouraging even amateurs to delve into the expressive world of art.

    Wray has been painting since her retirement from Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1995. Just a few years after she discovered her new passion, she joined the Los Alamos Artists Studio Tour and was a part of the Holiday Art Show at Melissa Bartlett’s studio for nine years.

    She spent years displaying her works in local venues such as DeColores and Katherine’s Restaurant; but quickly recognized the need for a professional gallery where local artists could exhibit their works year-round.

    Wray recently moved her gallery to its new location, just across the street from the Bradbury Science Museum, to further her efforts to provide a place where local artists could thrive. Once only displaying her own pieces, she now features more than 18 local artists in her gallery, with plans to add more in the future.

  • Fed Sees High Unemployment Into 2015
  • Hotel preps for shut down -- VIDEO EXTRA

    There was no 11th-hour reprieve or last-minute deal.

    In the end, no bidders came forward.

    Los Alamos National Bank set a minimum bid at $2.9 million, to secure the Hilltop House Hotel during a foreclosure auction in front of the Justice Center Wednesday, just before noon.

    Approximately 20 people were in attendance as special master John Morse read the conditions of the sale.

    Morse announced the bank had submitted a $2.9 million bid. He then asked everybody in attendance if there were any other bids.

    There was silence.

    Morse then awarded possession of the hotel to the bank.

    LANB president Steve Wells said the bank never favors the foreclosure process “but unfortunately, this was the only option we had left.”

    Wells then explained the process of what happens next.

    “This process requires the judge presiding over the foreclosure to approve the auction transaction and that can take up to a week depending on the judge’s workload and of course any concerns, which we do not expect,” Wells said. “New Mexico law allows for a 30-day redemption period where the debtor can redeem the property with payment of the amount required.

  • Iconic hotel heads for auction block

    Barring some 11th-hour reprieve, the Hilltop House Hotel will be auctioned off to the highest bidder on the steps of the Los Alamos Justice Center Wednesday.

    Judge Sarah Singleton of the First Judicial District Court of Los Alamos ruled last month that the special master will sell the hotel at public auction for cash or certified funds at 11:45 a.m. Wednesday at the front entrance of the Justice Center.

    According to a legal notice published in the Los Alamos Monitor last month, the total amount awarded by the judgment to Los Alamos National Bank with interest to the date of the sale was approximately $4.5 million plus additional costs and attorney fees. The amount of interest to date is more than $500,000.

    “It is my understanding there will be a sale tomorrow,” LANB president Steve Wells said Tuesday morning. “The special master will conduct the sale and accept bids on the property. The bank would be a bidder and whoever has the highest bid will take over the property.”

    The Los Alamos National Bank put the wheels in motion to foreclose on the company that owns and manages the Hilltop House Hotel back in October.

    Hotel owners Ron and Kim Selvage, along with the hotel’s investors, were hopeful that a deal could be struck with the bank to restructure the debt.

  • LACDC names Randall as new executive director

    The Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corp. board of directors has hired a veteran of municipal government and economic development as its new executive director.

    Board members met in a special session late Thursday afternoon and voted unanimously to bring Scott Randall on board to succeed Kevin Holsapple who has served as the organization’s top executive for the past 15 years.

    Holsapple announced his intention to step down from the post in December.

    Randall formally accepted the position Tuesday morning after working through details related to relocation and other matters.

    Randall, 57, has an extensive resume spanning about 35 years, the bulk of which he spent serving as city manager in locations that range from LaGrange, Ill., to Superior, Colo. Most recently, Randall worked as the general manager for the Hot Springs Village Property Owners Association in Arkansas.

    As he embarked on his career in the late 70s, Randall said that his goal was to become a city manager. Once he grabbed that “brass ring,” Randall told the board that he’s ready to tackle a new challenge.