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Growth briefs

Published:Tuesday | November 8, 2016 | 12:00 AM

Business Briefs International

US trade deficit in September at lowest level in 19 months


The US trade deficit fell in September to the lowest level in 19 months as demand for US - made airplanes and other exports increased while imports slipped. The politically sensitive deficit with China declined.

The deficit narrowed to $36.4 billion in September, down 9.9 per cent from August, the Commerce Department said Friday. It was the lowest imbalance since February 2015.

The latest report offers American manufacturers an encouraging sign that the problems caused by overseas weakness and a rising dollar were beginning to wane.

Finally, pay for workers across much of economy is climbing


Workers at construction sites, hotels and restaurants have enjoyed solid pay raises in the past 12 months. So have employees of utilities and telecom firms. Finally, after years of stagnant pay, more American workers are receiving meaningful raises a trend driven home by the government's October jobs report.

Average hourly pay surged 10 cents an hour last month to an average of $25.92, the government reported Friday. That's 2.8 per cent higher than it was a year ago, the sharpest 12-month increase since 2009.

The job market appears much healthier now, a sign that the plodding seven-year recovery is now providing some critical relief for workers.

Dutch giant Unilever breaks ground for factory in Cuba

HAVANA, Cuba (AP):

Dutch consumer product giant Unilever has become one of the largest foreign companies to move into a special economic development zone at the Cuban port of Mariel that is meant to jumpstart outside investment on the island.

Unilever broke ground Friday on a $35 million joint venture with the Cuban government to produce personal care products.

Unilever will hold a 60 per cent stake in the venture, which will produce shampoo, soaps and other products for local and international distribution. The factory is expected to generate 300 local jobs and will be managed by Unilever officials.

Only seven other foreign firms have moved to open operations in the special economic zone since it was inaugurated in 2014. Many have yet to break ground or remain in the early stages. Cuba says it is hopeful of accelerating the pace of foreign investment in the country, a pace lagging at less than half the annual goal of more than $2 billion a year.

Eleven more companies have been approved to open operations at the free trade zone, Cuban officials say.