Factory index shows contraction in China

Chinese manufacturing contracted for the second month in a row in September amid a slowdown in the world's No. 2 economy. An official manufacturing index based on a survey of factory purchasing managers edged up to 49.8 in September from August's 49.7, which was the lowest level since August 2012. In July, it was 50.0. The index, compiled by the Chinese Federation for Logistics and Purchasing and released Thursday, is based on a 100-point scale on which numbers above 50 indicate expansion. China's economic growth held steady at 7 percent in the latest quarter ending in June, which was the weakest performance since the 2008 global crisis.

Whole Foods drops products of prison labor

Whole Foods Market Inc. will stop selling products made using a prison labor program after a protest at one of its stores in Texas. The company said the products should be out of its stores by April, if not sooner. Whole Foods said it has sold tilapia, trout and goat cheese produced through a Colorado inmate program at some stores since at least 2011. Michael Silverman, a Whole Foods spokesman, said the company had sourced the products because the program was a way to "help people get back on their feet and eventually become contributing members of society." But he said the company ended the practice because some customers were uncomfortable with it.

Consumer prices in Europe fell last month

Consumer prices across the 19-country eurozone fell in September for the first time in half a year as energy prices tanked, official figures showed, in a development that's likely to ratchet up pressure on the European Central Bank to give the region more stimulus. The 0.1 percent annual decline reported by Eurostat, the E.U.'s statistics office, was widely anticipated following the recent drop in global oil prices. Energy prices were 8.9 percent lower in September than the year before, more than the 7.2 percent drag registered in August. The impact of energy costs is evident in the fact that, when they are stripped out of the calculations, consumer prices were 1 percent higher in the year to September. If food, alcohol and tobacco are also taken out, the eurozone's so-called core inflation rate stood at an unchanged 0.9 percent.

Private-sector jobs grew steadily last month

Buoyed by strong consumer spending and steady home sales, U.S. businesses added jobs at a healthy pace in September, according to a private survey. Payroll processor ADP said employers added 200,000 jobs last month, up from 180,000 in the previous month. August's job total was revised lower. Americans are spending more freely and buying big-ticket items such as new cars and homes. That is countering weak economies overseas and the strong dollar, which are cutting into exports. The government will issue its official jobs report for September on Friday. Economists forecast that report will show that employers added 206,000 jobs, and the unemployment rate held at 5.1 percent for the second straight month.

Grant Thornton offers unlimited vacation

Grant Thornton, the sixth-largest U.S. accounting firm, will offer U.S. employees unlimited time off, a strategy it hopes will entice workers from rivals with traditional vacation plans. The new policy, in place by November, will affect 6,700 workers and replace vacation time that capped days off at 30 for the most senior staff, the firm said. Less than 1 percent of U.S. companies offer unlimited vacation, according to 2015 data from the Society of Human Resource Management. U.S. companies, feeling the pressure to hang on to their best workers in an improving economy, are adding benefits with particular appeal to workers in their 20s and early 30s.

IMF's Lagarde sees weaker global growth

The head of the International Monetary Fund said global growth will likely be weaker this year as the world economy confronts a host of problems, including a refugee crisis in Europe, an economic slowdown in China and a pending rise in U.S. interest rates. IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde predicted a moderate rebound in growth in advanced economies such as the United States, Europe and Japan. But emerging economies will experience a fifth consecutive year of slowing activity, she said. Lagarde said potential growth is being held back by low productivity, aging populations and lingering problems from the 2008 financial crisis such as high debt levels.