Business news in brief

Posted: March 24, 2013

In the Region

Pa. unemployment dips

Pennsylvania's Department of Labor and Industry said that February's unemployment rate was 8.1 percent, down from 8.2 percent in January. The national unemployment rate was 7.7 percent in February. The department estimates that the number of nonfarm jobs in Pennsylvania remained flat at just under 5.75 million jobs, a number that's about the same as it was last March. - AP

Drillers paid family $750K

Range Resources Corp. and other natural-gas drillers paid a Pennsylvania family $750,000 to settle claims that the companies were contaminating their water, according to unsealed court records. MarkWest Energy Partners L.P. and Williams Cos.'s Williams Gas unit joined in the June 2011 agreement, which included the transfer of Chris and Stephanie Hallowich's home in Hickory, Pa., according to records unsealed in Washington County. The records were unsealed after a judge rejected the companies' arguments that such a move threatened their right to privacy. - Bloomberg News

Website tracks PGW sale try

The City of Philadelphia and Philadelphia Gas Works set up a website that officials said will track the effort to sell the city-owned utility. The site, www.exploringasale.com, has sections on how a sale would affect PGW customers, employees and the business community and FAQs. Over objections of unionized gas workers and the city's public advocate, the commission that oversees PGW voted in January to hire a team of advisers to solicit bids to privatize PGW. A financial adviser last year estimated that a sale could net the city as much as $496 million after PGW's liabilities of about $1.3 billion were paid off. - Inquirer staff

Montco seen stabilizing

Moody's Investors Service rated Montgomery County's $55 million in new general-obligation bonds Aa1, maintaining the same rating on its existing $384 million of long-term general-obligation debt. The borrowing will pay for road, bridge and county building repairs. In May, Moody's dropped the county from top-rated AAA status, citing its "narrowed" financial position after several years of operating deficits and a weakened cash position, among other factors. But in 2013, analyst Michael D'Arcy wrote, Moody's believes the county commissioners "will stabilize financial operations and restore reserves over the medium-term." Said Commissioners Chairman Josh Shapiro, "We were handed a sinking ship, and we are stabilizing and heading in the right direction." - Joseph N. DiStefano

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