An encouraging private sector jobs report, wage increases for Walmart department managers, and a pick up in U.S. auto sales top our roundup of the day's top business news stories.
Coming Soon--AMC, Regal Facing Antitrust Probes
Movie theater chains AMC Entertainment and Regal Entertainment said Tuesday they are the subject of two government probes into possible anti-competitive tactics, USA TODAY reports. Both chains said they have received civil investigative demands from the Justice Department’s antitrust division over questions whether they have pushed for exclusivity deals with Hollywood studios that would block the hottest new releases from playing at independent theatres. AMC has 347 theaters with 4,972 screens across the country, while Regal has 7,324 screens in 569 theaters in 42 states. Both chains also received civil investigation demands from the antitrust section of the Office of Attorney General of the State of Ohio, they said in regulatory filings.
Private Sector Employment Adds 201,000 Jobs: ADP
Private sector employment increased from April to May by 201,000 jobs, according to the monthly ADP National Employment Report released Wednesday. Small businesses with less than 50 employees increased by 122,000 jobs in May, up from 97,000 in April. Mid-sized companies with 50-499 employees added 65,000 jobs, unchanged from the previous month, while employment gains at companies with 500 or more employees added 13,000 jobs in May, up from 3,000. Service-producing employment rose by 192,000 jobs last month, while the construction industry posted another good month, adding 27,000 jobs. The ADP report anticipates Friday's closely watched jobs Employment Situation Summary released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
U.S. Auto Sales Picked Up in May
Memorial Day promotions and demand for new S.U.V.s drove a 2 percent increase in auto sales in May, according to Autodata Corp. Americans bought more than 1.64 million cars and trucks, the fastest pace since July 2005. Analysts had expected sales to fall slightly because of lower sales to rental car companies and other auto fleets, the Associated Press reports.
Subaru led automakers with a 12 percent sales gain, followed by Volkswagen with an 8 percent sales gain thanks to its new Golf. Fiat Chrysler saw a 4 percent increase. General Motors and Honda sales rose 3 percent and 1 percent, respectively. Last May, sales jumped 11 percent to just over 1.61 million, their highest monthly total in nine years.
Cyber-Thieves Stole Nearly $40 Million: IRS
An embarrassing IRS data breach cost affected taxpayers as much as $39 million after cyber-thieves filed fraudulent tax refunds by gaining access to taxpayer information. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen provided Congress Tuesday with the updated damage estimate. The data breach was made public last week. He said that federal tax officials are working with private tax-preparation firms to strengthen U.S. tax security, USA TODAY reports. Preliminary investigation results show the cyber-thieves were part of an effort operated from Internet domains in Russia and other countries.
Walmart Boosts Department Manager Pay
Walmart, the nation’s largest private employer, will be raising starting wages for more than 100,000 U.S. department managers and workers in its deli and other specialized departments. Walmart has been under pressure from labor-backed groups for its treatment of its employees. In February, the company announced it would increase minimum wages for entry-level and long-term hourly employees to at least $10 an hour by next February. That increase affected 500,000 of its 1.3 million U.S. workers, USA TODAY reported. The wage hikes are part of a $1 billion program that also includes improving training and offering employees more control of their schedules.
Water Usage Drying Up in California
California’s State Water Resources Control Board on Tuesday released a report that shows the Golden State’s cities and towns used 13.5 percent less water in April than they did in April 2013. State Governor Jerry Brown has ordered cities and towns to cut back 25 percent on water usage than they did two years ago. In areas where per-capita water use is highest, residents are being directed to cut water use by 36 percent. Some of the conservation was helped by a slightly wetter and cooler month than April 2013. The mandatory cutbacks took effect June 1.