U.S. auto recalls break 2014 record

Automobile recalls hit another record last year as stronger government enforcement and widening recalls of exploding air bags pushed the total above 51 million vehicles. The 2015 number barely beat the old record set in 2014. That total was adjusted downward from nearly 64 million to eliminate double counting in the massive recalls of air bag inflaters made by Takata Corp. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recorded almost 900 recalls last year, beating the 2014 record of 803. The number was higher as automakers moved faster to fix problems. They reacted to millions in fines against companies for reporting safety problems too slowly. The agency says the 2014 total was adjusted to just under 51 million due to double counting and moving some Takata recalls from 2014 into 2015.

Jobless aid applications hit six-month high

The number of people seeking unemployment benefits rose last week to the highest level since July, though applications remained at historically low levels. Weekly applications for unemployment aid rose 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 293,000. The four-week average, a less-volatile measure, increased to 285,000, the highest since April. The number of Americans receiving aid has fallen nearly 9 percent in the past year to 2.2 million. The applications figure remains below 300,000, where it has stood since last March. That is a low level that points to few layoffs. Yet it has increased nearly 10 percent in the past month.

United Airlines' profit rises, revenue falls

United Airlines' fourth-quarter profit spiked on cheaper jet fuel but it still fell short of Wall Street expectations. United is in the middle of a turnaround effort that has included a shake-up of its top ranks. It has shown improvement in some areas like on-time performance, but revenue is shrinking at both the main airline and the United Express division. United Continental Holdings Inc. on Thursday reported earnings of $823 million in the fourth quarter, up from $28 million a year ago. Excluding one-time items, the company earned $2.54 per share, a nickel short of expectations by industry analysts according to polls by both Zacks Investment Research and FactSet. Revenue fell 3 percent to $9.04 billion, slightly below the $9.08 billion average forecast from the FactSet analysts. The decline was caused by lower average fares — both United and Southwest reported that passengers paid 7 percent less per mile than in late 2014.

Publisher to cut 4,000 jobs worldwide

Pearson, the troubled British publisher, said Thursday that it would eliminate 4,000 jobs worldwide as part of a continuing restructuring by the former owner of The Financial Times and The Economist to shift its focus primarily to its international education business. The move comes as Pearson, which makes the bulk of its sales from its educational-testing activities in the United States, warned of weaker profit as an improving U.S. job market slows college enrollments. That, by extension, has slowed demand for its textbooks and standardized testing services, which are the most commonly used for higher education admissions in the United States. The group also pointed to falling university enrollments in other major English-language markets, including Britain and South Africa.

Brazil's economy shed 1.5M payroll jobs

Brazil lost 1.5 million payroll jobs in 2015 amid a contracting economy that has led to high inflation and layoffs in the manufacturing and service sectors, the labor ministry said Thursday. The ministry said that 39.7 million workers were formally employed at the end of last year, compared to 41.2 million at the end of 2014 and 40.8 million in 2013. Labor Minister Miguel Rossetto said last year's job creation figures are the worst since they started being compiled in 1992. Most of the lost payroll jobs were in the industrial and civil construction sectors. The only positive job creation figures were posted by the agricultural sector, where close to 10,000 new positions were opened.