Hiring rises in 36 states in December
Employers added jobs in 36 states last month, led by big gains in California, Texas and Florida, evidence that hiring remains solid nationwide. Low oil prices caused job losses in energy-rich states. The widespread hiring helped push down unemployment rates in 25 states in December, with the sharpest drops occurring in Missouri and Oregon. The unemployment rate doesn't always decline even when more hiring occurs, because more Americans may start job hunting and push up the rate even as others are hired. Unemployment rates rose in 14 states and were unchanged in 11. California added 60,400 jobs last month, followed by Texas with 24,900 and Florida with 21,900. Oil-rich states are still shedding jobs, with North Dakota losing 4,000 and Oklahoma 5,100.
Consumers more confident in economy
A strong job market and low gasoline prices helped boost U.S. consumer confidence again in January. The Conference Board on Tuesday said that its consumer confidence index rose to 98.1 in January from 96.3 in December, the second straight monthly gain. The business research group said Americans were more confident about the future, though their assessment of current economic conditions was unchanged from December. Consumers shrugged off the recent sharp decline in the stock market and signs of economic weakness overseas. The Conference Board said 6.6 percent of survey respondents planned to buy a house in the next six months. That's the highest percentage since December 2013.
Weight Watchers gaining as Oprah loses
Weight Watchers stock is gaining again, thanks to Oprah Winfrey's weight loss. The company's shares soared Tuesday after a new commercial starring Winfrey aired where she says she has lost 26 pounds on Weight Watchers. Winfrey said during an appearance on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" that she started on the plan in August. Winfrey bought a 10 percent stake in the weight-loss company in October. Its stock is up more than 90 percent since then. Winfrey is a natural fit for the company: Her struggle with weight was a frequent topic of her former talk show. Winfrey posted the ad online Tuesday to her nearly 31 million Twitter followers.
Chase plans a rollout of card-free ATMs
JPMorgan Chase customers will soon be able to withdraw cash or initiate other transactions using their cellphone at Chase ATMs being upgraded later this year. The move will include new cash machines that don't require a card and upgrades to existing machines that will allow customers to withdraw more money and in different denominations, said Chase spokesman Michael Fusco. The withdrawal limit will also be substantially higher, up to $3,000 during branch hours. The first generation of these new ATMs will allow customers to access the machine by inputting a code found on their Chase mobile app. Customers will still be able to use their ATM cards if they want to, Fusco said. The cellphone technology will just be an option.
Centene loses data for 950K customers
Health insurer Centene Corp. says it is missing six hard drives that contain the personal and health information of roughly 950,000 clients. The St. Louis-based company said Monday that the hard drives do not include financial or payment details. But the missing information does include the names, addresses, birth dates, Social Security numbers, member identification numbers and health information of patients who received laboratory services between 2009 and 2015. Centene said it is notifying regulators and affected individuals, who will be offered free credit and health care monitoring. The company said it is publicizing its internal search "out of an abundance of caution."