Business Briefs – March 17, 2016

Applications for Jobless Aid Rise But Stay at Healthy Level

WASHINGTON (AP) – More Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, but their numbers remained at low levels consistent with a healthy job market.

The number of people seeking jobless aid rose by 7,000 to a seasonally adjusted 265,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The less-volatile four-week average rose by 750 to 268,000. The number of people collecting unemployment checks was 2.24 million, down nearly 7 percent from a year earlier. Weekly claims have now been below 300,000 for 54 straight weeks, longest streak since 1973.

The numbers reflect a healthy job market. Jobless claims are a proxy for layoffs.

Keeping What’s Ours: Mutual-Fund Costs at Lowest in Decades

NEW YORK (AP) – It hasn’t been this cheap to invest in mutual funds for decades, possibly ever.

Expenses dropped again last year for both stock and bond funds, and they’re at their lowest levels since at least 1996, as a percentage of their total assets, according to the Investment Company Institute. That’s how far back the trade group’s records go, and funds have been getting steadily cheaper to own since then.

It’s heartening because low expenses mean investors are keeping more of their savings. But investors don’t always notice the savings-fund companies directly take out how much they need for managers’ salaries, record-keeping costs and other operating expenses from the fund’s assets.

Longtime CEO of Drug Maker GSK to Step Down Next Year

LONDON (AP) – The head of pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, Andrew Witty, has announced he will leave after eight years as CEO.

The search for a successor comes amid months of pressure from some investors, who had wanted the diverse company to be broken up.

The company said in a statement that Witty believes “this will be the right time for a new leader to take over.”

Like many big pharmaceutical companies, GSK has struggled to see off the challenge of generic drugmakers and come up with new blockbuster drugs to replace medicines with expiring patents.

Google Gives Federal Plan For Self-Driving Car

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Google wants Congress to create new federal powers that would let it receive special, expedited permission to bring to market a self-driving car.

The proposal, laid out in a letter to top federal transportation officials, reveals Google’s solution to a major regulatory roadblock: U.S. law does not permit the mainstream deployment of cars with the design Google has been advancing.

The cars may sound futuristic, but Google has dropped increasingly strong hints that its self-driving technology — tested for several years on public roads in California and elsewhere — could be ready for early adopters sooner than the public expects.