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BUSINESS BRIEFLY

Jobless claims jump by 68,000 due to Katrina

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A total of 68,000 Americans lost their jobs due to Hurricane Katrina and filed for unemployment benefits last week, shoving these applications up by the largest amount in nearly a decade.

The Labor Department reported that claims for benefits rose by 71,000 last week, with 68,000 of that total attributed to layoffs due to Katrina, which devastated New Orleans and other areas along the Gulf Coast. That figure exceeded the claims filed in the weeks following the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, and analysts predicted that it would be revised even higher once states catch up with processing a flood of claims.

Meanwhile, consumer inflation surged by 0.5 percent in August as energy prices shot up by the largest amount in more than two years, even before Katrina hit at the end of the month. The hurricane caused a further spike in energy prices due to widespread shutdowns of oil and natural gas facilities in the Gulf Coast region.

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CWA now targets Chrysler

TORONTO (AP) -- The Canadian Auto Workers union will strike against DaimlerChrysler, where up to 2,500 jobs were at risk, if no deal is reached by next Tuesday, union leader Buzz Hargrove said Wednesday.

"I'm not very optimistic at this point," Hargrove told The Canadian Press after announcing that DaimlerChrysler was the next target in this year's auto contract talks. "The big thing is the demand on jobs that they have, on outsourcing our jobs . . . to anywhere in the world that can do it cheaper."

The latest negotiations come after the autoworkers signed a deal with Ford Canada on Monday, a grim agreement that will see 1,100 fewer jobs in Ontario and the shutdown of one Ford factory by the end of a three-year labor contract.

DaimlerChrysler operates assembly plants in Windsor and Brampton, northwest of Toronto, as well as parts plants in Windsor.

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Xbox 360 due Nov. 22

SEATTLE (AP) -- The next version of Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox game console will be available in the United States two days before Thanksgiving, in time for the important holiday shopping season, the company said Wednesday.

The Nov. 22 launch of Xbox 360 in North America will be followed by a Dec. 2 launch in Europe and a Dec. 10 launch in Japan. The releases will allow the Redmond-based software maker to get a head start over rival Sony's PlayStation 3, which is slated to replace the market-leading PlayStation 2 next spring.

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Chief of TJX Cos. resigns

FRAMINGHAM, Mass. (AP) -- The chief executive of TJX Cos. resigned abruptly, saying that some of the off-price retailer's smaller divisions would benefit from a "fresh perspective." Edmond "Ted" English, 52, has worked for the Framingham-based company for 22 years, the last five as CEO.

The company's largest divisions -- Marshalls and T.J. Maxx -- "have experienced strong growth," English said in a statement. But other divisions "have not met expectations over the past year, despite actions taken to improve their performance."

TJX also operates HomeGoods, A.J. Wright and Bob's Stores in the U.S.; Winners and HomeSense in Canada; and T.K. Maxx in Europe.

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In other business news

US Airways Group on Wednesday said creditors approved its Chapter 11 bankruptcy plan of reorganization, anchored by its proposed acquisition by America West Holdings Corp. A judicial confirmation hearing today is the final hurdle to the company's exit from bankruptcy protection.

General Electric Co. reaffirmed its profit forecast Wednesday, saying it expects to achieve double-digit earnings growth this year despite the impact of Hurricane Katrina.

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