Biz bits

Metro unemployment rate drops in March


The Augusta metro unemployment rate for March was 8.4 percent, down from 8.8 percent in February and from March 2010, the Georgia Labor Department reported Tuesday.

The rate fell because there were 1,100 new jobs in Augusta in March, Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said, mostly in service-related industries, and fewer layoffs in construction, manufacturing, retail trade and administrative and support services.

All six counties in the metro area saw the jobless rate fall:

Richmond: 9.6 percent in March, down from 10.0 percent in February and 9.9 percent in March 2010.

Columbia: 6.8 percent, down from 6.9 percent in February and 7.0 percent in March 2010.

McDuffie: 10.0 percent, down from 10.5 percent in February and 11.1 percent in March 2010.

Burke: 10.3 percent, down from 11.4 percent in February and 10.7 percent in March 2010.

Aiken: 7.8 percent, down from 8.4 percent in February and in March 2010.

Edgefield: 8.4 percent, down from 8.7 percent in February and 9.4 percent in March 2010.

Another quarterly loss is posted by Synovus

Synovus Financial Corp. posted its 11th consecutive quarterly loss, the Columbus-based regional bank reported Tuesday.

The first-quarter loss was $93.7 million, or 12 cents a share, down from $229.8 million, or 47 cents a share, a year ago.

The loss included $24.3 million in restructuring charges related to personnel reductions.

"Total credit costs and provision for loan losses were at their lowest level since the second quarter of 2008, and net charge-offs are at their lowest levels since the third quarter of 2008. We ... are on track to achieve our projected $75 million in expense savings in 2011," CEO Kessel Stelling said.

Synovus operates the two-branch Augusta First Bank & Trust.

In other news

AMERICANS' CONFIDENCE in the economy grew in April as fears about the job market eased, outweighing the pain from rising prices at the gas pump.

FORD POSTED ITS BEST first-quarter profit in 13 years thanks to an improving economy and a lineup of fuel-efficient vehicles that reached showrooms as gasoline prices surged.

AMAZON.COM SAID Tuesday that its net income fell 33 percent in the latest quarter, a steeper drop than Wall Street expected as the online retailer battles stronger competition from Wal-Mart and other rivals.

A $318 MILLION quarterly loss driven by a sharply higher fuel bill is spurring Delta Air Lines to raise fares, cut flying and park airplanes. Delta now plans to sideline 140 planes over the next year and a half, from its smallest propeller-driven regional planes to big international jets.