Current Events in May 2016

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2016

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    Job openings slip in February as hiring increases

    The number of workers who left jobs was on the rise

    The number of jobs up for grabs inched lower during February.

    Figures released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show there were 5.4 million job openings at the end of the month, compared with 5.5 million the month before.

    Hires, meanwhile, were up to 5.4 million from 5.0 million in January, and separations rose by 200,000 -- to 5.1 million.

    Job openings

    The job openings rate February was about the same as a month earlier -- 3.7%. Openings rose in educational services (+48,000) and federal government (+19,000), but fell in health care and social assistance (-147,000), finance and insurance (-54,000), and mining and logging (-8,000). The number of job openings was lower down in the Midwest region.

    Hires

    The addition of 297,000 hires in February was the highest level since November 2006, putting the hires rate at 3.8%. Hires increased for total private (+278,000) and were little changed for government.

    Retail trade added 102,000 positions followed by accommodation and food services (+78,000), educational services (+44,000), and state and local government -- excluding education (+25,000). Hires declined in mining and logging (-9,000). Hires increased in the South.

    Separations

    Total separations includes quits, layoffs and discharges, and other separations, and is referred to as turnover. The total separations rate in February was 3.5% with little change for total private and government.

    Separations were up in accommodation and food services (+98,000), while arts, entertainment, and recreation edged lower (-31,000). The number of total separations was little changed over the month in all regions.

    Employment net change

    Over the 12 months ending in February, hires totaled 62.1 million and separations totaled 59.4 million, for a net employment gain of 2.7 million. This includes workers who may have been hired and separated more than once during the year.

    The full report may be found on the BLS website.

    The number of jobs up for grabs inched lower during February.Figures released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show there were 5.4 million job o...

    Pita Pal Foods recalls numerous products because of possible health risk

    The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

    Pita Pal Foods of Houston, Texas, is recalling Corn Relish Salad, Texas Caviar Salad, Mediterranean 3 Bean Salad and Chipotle Quinoa Salad.

    The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

    No illnesses have been reported to date.

    The following products, with expiration dates or use/ freeze by bates through June 13, 2016, and packaged in plastic containers with snap-on lids, are being recalled:

    • 2/5lbs Food Service Pita Pal Corn Relish Salad
    • 2/4lbs Food Service Pita Pal Mediterranean 3 Bean Salad
    • 2/4.5lbs Food Service Pita Pal Texas Caviar
    • 8oz Pita Pal Texas Caviar
    • 8oz Pita Pal Mediterranean 3 Bean Salad
    • 24oz Pita Pal Mediterranean 3 Bean Salad
    • 28oz Pita Pal Chipotle Quinoa Salad

    The recalled products were distributed through retail stores and food service distributors in California, Florida, Georgia, Minnesota, New York, Oklahoma, Texas and Wisconsin.

    What to do

    Customers who purchased the recalled products should return them to the place of purchase for a refund.

    Consumers with questions may contact Pita Pal Foods at 713-777-7482, Monday – Friday between 9:00 am and 4:00 pm (CST).

    Pita Pal Foods of Houston, Texas, is recalling Corn Relish Salad, Texas Caviar Salad, Mediterranean 3 Bean Salad and Chipotle Quinoa Salad. The pro...

    Hickory Harvest recalls sunflower kernel products

    The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

    Hickory Harvest Foods is recalling a limited number of products containing sunflower seeds that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

    No illnesses have been reported to date.

    The recalled products were packaged at, or distributed from Hickory Harvest between February 15, 2016, and May 2, 2016, and shipped to:

    • Alabama,
    • Arizona,
    • California,
    • Colorado,
    • Florida,
    • Georgia,
    • Iowa,
    • Illinois,
    • Indiana,
    • Kansas,
    • Kentucky,
    • Louisiana,
    • Maine,
    • Missouri,
    • Mississippi,
    • North Dakota,
    • Nebraska,
    • New Jersey,
    • New Mexico,
    • Nevada,
    • New York,
    • Ohio,
    • Oklahoma,
    • Oregon,
    • Pennsylvania,
    • South Carolina,
    • Tennessee,
    • Texas,
    • Virginia and
    • Wyoming.

    The following items, sold in packaged bags and deli tubs and marked with Best By Dates located on the front or back of the packages, are being recalled:

    Product DescriptionSizeUPCBest By Date
    Hickory Harvest Roasted Salted Sunflower
    Kernel
    10 oz0-36232-07703-911/18/16 
    01/07/17 
    01/08/17
    Hickory Harvest Roasted No Salt Sunflower
    Kernel
    10 oz0-36232-07707-911/16/16 
    01/21/17
    Hickory Harvest Roasted Salted Sunflower
    Kernel Car Cup
    7 oz0-36232-07716-911/25/16 
    12/29/16
    Hickory Harvest Roasted Salted Sunflower
    Kernel
    11 oz0-36232-07702-201/11/17
    Hickory Harvest Roasted Salted Sunflower
    Kernel
    5oz0-36232-07704-611/25/16 
    12/28/16 
    12/29/16
    IM Good Roasted Salted Sunflower Kernel1.6 oz7-93724-80218-904/29117
    Sheetz Roasted Salted Sunflower Kernel3.5oz7-59465-00784-903/01/17
    Raylicious Roasted Salted Sunflower Kernel1.5oz8-55291-00192-804/14/17
    04115/17
    Liberty Roasted Salted Sunflower Kernel3 oz6-08819-35672-304/16/17
    04/29/17
    Heinens Roasted Salted Sunflower Kernel10 oz0-36232-07703-912128/16
    Heinens Roasted No Salt Sunflower Kernel10 oz0-36232-07707-701/21117 
    12/15/16
    Amish Farms Roasted Salted Sunflower Kernel5.5oz8-55993-20018-602/25/17

    What to do

    Customers who purchased the recalled products should not consume them, but return them to the store where they were purchased for a refund, or simply discard them.

    Consumers with questions may contact the company at 1-877-237-4374 Monday – Friday, 8:00am – 5:00pm or by email at askus2@hickoryharvest.com.

    Hickory Harvest Foods is recalling a limited number of products containing sunflower seeds that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. No...

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      TreeHouse Foods recalls various products due to possible health risk

      The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

      TreeHouse Foods is recalling a variety of products containing sunflower seeds that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

      No illnesses have been reported to date.

      The following products, distributed through retail stores nationwide, are being recalled:

      UPCDescriptionBest By/Date Code
      041498206680Southern Grove Roasted and Salted Sunflower Kernels3/1/2017
      041498206680Southern Grove Roasted and Salted Sunflower Kernels3/2/2017
      041498206680Southern Grove Roasted and Salted Sunflower Kernels2/28/2017
      071725750198Natures Harvest Whole Almonds3/3/2017
      071725750266Natures Harvest Slivered Almond3/3/2017
      041498114749Southern Grove Dry Roasted No Salt Almond3/4/2017
      041498132248Southern Grove Dry Roasted Sea Salt Almond3/4/2017
      071725750259Natures Harvest Sliced Almonds3/4/2017
      071725750211Natures Harvest Pecans3/4/2017
      071725727497Natures Harvest Roasted and Salted Sunflower Kernels11/25/2016
      071725728074Natures Harvest Sunflower Kernels Ranch Flavored3/1/2017
      071725727497Natures Harvest Roasted and Salted Sunflower Kernels12/4/2016
      070038638285Best Choice Dark Chocolate Cranberry3/14/2017
      070038614142Best Choice Mountain Trail Mix3/14/2017
      007172524140Amport Roasted and Salted Sunflower Seeds11/26/2016
      639277348319Naturally Select Roasted and Salted Sunflower Seed3/1/2017
      883967300013Smart Sense Roasted and Salted Sunflower Kernels3/4/2017
      049022832275Nice Sunflower Seeds Salted in Shell3/4/2017
      050428353240Gold Emblem Roasted and Salted Sunflower Kernels11/27/2016
      071725748010Sunflower Seeds Roasted and Salted11/27/2016
      071725728166Natures Harvest Afternoon Snack Blend11/28/2016
      071725714688Raisin and Nut Trail Mix11/28/2016
      071725711533Natures Harvest Southwest Trail Mix11/28/2016
      708615110434K&G Southwest Trail Mix11/28/2016
      1115029456Roundy Sweet and Salty Almond Chewy BarsDEC 08 16
      1115099114Roundy Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate BarsDEC 05 16
      1115099114Roundy Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate BarsJAN 04 17
      1116103436ShurFine Sweet and Salty Almond Chewy BarsDEC 08 16
      1373312015Meijer Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Protein BarsDEC 05 16
      1373312015Meijer Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Protein BarsJAN 04 17
      1373312016Meijer Peanut Almond Dark Chocolate Protein BarsDEC 07 16
      1373312016Meijer Peanut Almond Dark Chocolate Protein BarsJAN 07 17
      1373312025Meijer Sweet and Salty Almond BarsDEC 07 16
      1373312025Meijer Sweet and Salty Almond BarsDEC 08 16
      1373312031Meijer Peanut Chocolate chunk Pretzel BarsDEC 09 16
      1373312032Meijer White Choc Chip Pretzel BarsDEC 09 16
      1540016425Western Family Sweet and Salty Almond BarsDEC 07 16
      2113028372Signature Kitchen Peanut Chocolate Chunk BarsDec 09 16
      2113028380Signature Kitchen White Chocolate Chip Pretzel BarsDEC 09 16
      2113028352Signature Kitchen Sweet & Salty Almond BarsDec 08 16
      3225108607Family Gourmet Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Protein BarsJAN 04 17
      3680017921Food Club Sweet and Salty Almond BarsDEC 07 16
      3680017921Food Club Sweet and Salty Almond BarsDEC 08 16
      3680035737Food Club White Chocolate Chip Pretzel BarsDEC 09 16
      3680039453Food Club Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Protein BarsDEC 05 16
      3680039453Food Club Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Protein BarsJAN 04 17
      3680039454Food Club Peanut Almond Dark Chocolate Protein BarsJAN 07 17
      4130300137Essential Everyday Trail Mix BarsJAN 04 17
      4130300139Essential Everyday Sweet and Salty Almond BarsDEC 08 16
      4130304540Essential Everyday Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Protein BarsDEC 05 16
      4130304540Essential Everyday Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Protein BarsJAN 04 17
      4130304541Essential Everyday Peanut Almond Dark Chocolate Protein BarDEC 07 16
      5042847944Gold Emblem Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Protein BarsDEC 05 16
      5042847944Gold Emblem Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Protein BarsJAN 04 17
      5042847944Gold Emblem Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Protein BarsJAN 05 17
      7003860349Best Choice Trail Mix Fruit and Nut BarsJAN 04 17
      7003863811Best Choice Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Protein BarsDEC 05 16
      7003863811Best Choice Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Protein BarsJAN 04 17
      7003863812Best Choice Peanut Almond Dark Chocolate Protein BarsDEC 07 16
      7003863812Best Choice Peanut Almond Dark Chocolate Protein BarsJAN 07 17
      7025322712Our Family Sweet and Salty Almond BarsDEC 08 16
      7025322720Our Family Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Protein BarsDEC 05 16
      7025322720Our Family Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Protein BarsJAN 04 17
      7025322722Our Family Peanut Almond Dark Chocolate Protein BarsDEC 07 16
      7078447470Tops Sweet and Salty Almond BarsDEC 07 16
      7078447478Tops Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Protein BarsJAN 04 17
      7545001184HyVee Peanut Choc Chunk Pretzel BarsDEC 09 16
      7874203428Great Value Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Protein Bars12 05 16
      7874203428Great Value Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Protein Bars12 06 16
      7874203428Great Value Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Protein Bars01 05 17
      7874203428Great Value Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Protein Bars01 06 17
      7874203429Great Value Peanut Almond Dark Chocolate Protein Bars12 06 16
      7874203429Great Value Peanut Almond Dark Chocolate Protein Bars12 07 16
      7874203429Great Value Peanut Almond Dark Chocolate Protein Bars01 06 17
      7874203429Great Value Peanut Almond Dark Chocolate Protein Bars01 07 17
      7874207499Great Value Sweet & Salty Almond Bars12 08 16
      7874207499Great Value Sweet & Salty Almond Bars12 09 16
      7874236711Great Value Trail Mix Fruit and nut Bars12 04 16
      7874236711Great Value Trail Mix Fruit and nut Bars12 05 16
      7874236711Great Value Trail Mix Fruit and nut Bars01 02 17
      7874236711Great Value Trail Mix Fruit and nut Bars01 03 17
      7874236711Great Value Trail Mix Fruit and nut Bars01 04 17
      7989380097Eating Right (Lucerne) Peanut Almond Dark Chocolate Protein BarsDEC 07 16
      7989380097Eating Right (Lucerne) Peanut Almond Dark Chocolate Protein BarsJAN 07 17
      7989380098Eating Right (Lucerne) Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Protein BarsDEC 05 16
      7989380098Eating Right (Lucerne) Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Protein BarsJAN 05 17
      8826749280FoodHold Sweet and Salty Almond BarsDEC 07 16

      UPC codes and Best By/Date Codes may be found on each package.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled products should dispose of them or return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.

      Consumers with any questions may call 1-800-756-5781, Monday – Friday, 7:00 a.m.– 6:00 p.m. (CST).

      TreeHouse Foods is recalling a variety of products containing sunflower seeds that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. No illnesses ha...

      Brown & Haley recalls Mountain Thins "Trail Mix" flavor

      The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

      Brown & Haley of Tacoma, Wash., is recalling certain lots of Mountain Thins "Trail Mix" flavor.

      The product contains sunflower seeds that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

      No illnesses have been reported to date..

      The following product, distributed to select retail stores nationwide between March 7, 2016 and April 25, 2016, is being recalled:

      .

      Product NameSizeUPC CodeLot CodesBest By Date
      Mountain Thins "Trail Mix" flavor5.3 oz. stand-up film pouch (resealable)0 41770 33370 7O07O610, O07O620
      O08O610, O08O620
      O09O610, O09O620
      O10O610, O10O620
      O11O610
      O16O610
      W11W610, W11W620
      W14W610
      W15W610
      3/7/2017
      3/8/2017
      3/9/2017
      3/10/2017
      3/11/2017
      3/16/2017
      4/11/2017
      4/14/2017
      4/15/2017

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled product should not consume it, but return it to the store where purchased for a refund, or discard it.

      Consumers with questions may contact the company by email at sweets@brown-haley.com or call 1-800-426-8400 ext. 3085, Monday through Friday, 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM (PT).

      Brown & Haley of Tacoma, Wash., is recalling certain lots of Mountain Thins "Trail Mix" flavor. The product contains sunflower seeds that may be co...

      Cigar smokers aghast at FDA regulation of tobacco

      Proposed new rules could spell trouble for many small cigar stores

      Cigar smokers have for years felt beleaguered. Their spouses make them smoke outside, bars and restaurants increasingly show them the door, their cardiologists berate them mercilessly, and the U.S. government makes them go through silly charades to smuggle in the Cuban cigars they cherish.

      The smoke cleared briefly when President Obama visited Cuba and began the process of restoring diplomatic relations. But then, back home, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last week issued a proposed new 499-page rule that gives it authority over tobacco sales, including cigars. 

      "As you can imagine, this is a pretty tough day for a lot of us who are passionate about cigars," said Anthony Welch, proprietor of CigarsCity.com.

      The FDA's proposed rule would require manufacturers to go through a certification procedure to demonstrate that their product is properly labeled and fits within whatever specifications are established for each type of product -- traditional cigarette, e-cigarette, etc. It also set the minimum smoking age at 18.

      Although established brands will not have to go through the certification process, the rule will make it difficult to introduce new products and create especially thorny problems for mom-and-pop tobacconists.

      Health concerns

      The stated goal, of course, is to keep young people from taking up the tobacco and nicotine habits and to get a handle on the rapidly growing e-cig market, which health advocates like the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC) argue is a gateway to addiction.

      "Giving FDA authority over all tobacco products is a good thing," said Dr. Kenneth Michael Cummings, Professor, Hollings Cancer Center, Medical University of South Carolina, and member of IASLC's Tobacco Control and Smoking Cessation Committee. "It clears up a loophole in the original law that excluded products like cigars."

      The National Cancer Institute also takes a stern view of cigar and pipe smoking, warning on its Cancer.gov site: "There is no safe level of tobacco use. People who use any type of tobacco product should be encouraged to quit."

      But Welch and other premium cigar aficianados say they shouldn't be lumped in with the types of tobacco products that appeal to teens. 

      "Most of our customers are older than 40. In fact, our median customer is 55," Welch said in an email to ConsumerAffairs. "While we carry some small cigars (cigarillos) the majority of what is being bought at sites like ours are $5-$10 per cigar. I don’t think anyone would argue that’s a price-point that’s appealing to underage smokers."

      Custom-rolled

      Perhaps those most in peril from the new rule are the tobacconists who roll their own cigars and sell them to a select clientele. Check the commuter train stations around New York City and you'll find a surprising number of hole-in-the-wall shops that cater to Wall Streeters who duck in regularly to load up on their favorite custom-rolled smokes. 

      The Miami area is also dotted with boutique cigar stores, many claiming to have ready access to Cuban-grown tobacco. When full relations with Cuba are restored, the tobacco may be legal but it's hard to see how these mom-and-pop purveyors will be able to create a legally saleable product.

      "In my opinion, it’ll be very difficult for that independent cigar shop to not only jump through the FDA hoops to get their blends approved but also the costs associated with the testing," Welch said.

      Then again, it's possible the FDA will devote its resources to e-cigarettes, cigarillos, and other products before getting around to cigars, giving cigar connoisseurs at least a brief respite.

      "The FDA now has the authority to regulate the manufacturing elements of the products, such as ingredients, the introduction of new products, and more. The devil is in the details of how the FDA will do this, but presumably it will base actions on a continuum-of-risk basis, addressing the most dangerous products and practices first," Dr. Cummings said in a news release.

      In the long run the only tobacconists likely to avoid the new regulations are those in Canada and elsewhere who now clandestinely sell supposed Cuban cigars to U.S. consumers via the Internet.

      Cigar smokers have for years felt beleagured. Their spouses make them smoke outside, bars and restaurants increasingly show them the door, their cardiologi...

      Trump backs higher taxes for top earners

      Publicly backs away from 25% tax bracket for top income producers

      Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, isn't one to remain a prisoner of a previous position he's taken. So it is with taxes.

      Interviewed Sunday on ABC's “This Week,” Trump said taxes would go down for everyone over the long term. But to get to that point, Trump said they would need to go up, especially on top income producers.

      “I am willing to pay more,” Trump told ABC's George Stephanopolous. “And you know what? The wealthy are willing to pay more. We've had a very good run.”

      It should be noted that President Obama has made similar remarks on a number of occasions, and Trump's departure from what has been GOP orthodoxy undoubtedly gave party elites – already in shock over Trump's unlikely rise to the top of a 17-candidate field – massive headaches.

      A top tax bracket of 25%

      Consider that back in September, Trump outlined a tax proposal that called for dropping the tax rate for everyone. For the top tax bracket, now paying 39.6%, the businessman proposed lowering it to 25%.

      Various statisticians calculated the result would be even higher deficits. The Tax Policy Center, which professes not to have a dog in this fight, concluded that the Trump plan would add nearly $10 trillion to the national debt over 10 years.

      While saying top earners should pay more, Trump said he would hold the line on his proposed cuts for middle income wage earners.

      Conservative revolt

      Conservative leaders, many of whom have been part of the #NeverTrump movement, were quick to respond. Bill Kristol, editor of the conservative Weekly Standard, went on CNBC's “Squawk Box” Monday morning to voice opposition to a possible Trump presidency.

      He confirmed that he has talked with 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney about a potential third-party candidacy, to give conservative voters a choice between Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

      According to Clinton's web site, her economic plan calls for giving “working families a raise, and tax relief that helps them manage rising costs.” At the same time, her tax policy would “ close corporate tax loopholes and make the most fortunate pay their fair share.”

      While the devil is in the details, at first glance at least, it would appear Trump and Clinton aren't too far apart on ideas about taxes. However, Trump's website Monday morning still showed his highest proposed tax bracket at 25%.

      His plan would also eliminate all federal income tax on single taxpayers earning less than $25,000 and married couples, filing jointly, who earn less than $50,000.

      Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, isn't one to remain a prisoner of a previous position he's taken. So it is with taxes.In...

      E-cigs not as satisfying as the real thing, study finds

      They're not a "satisfying alternative" and thus not effective at helping smokers quit

      A new study disputes claims that e-cigarettes are a "disruptive technology" that can help smokers quit by replacing their traditional cigarettes. The study follows last week's action by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to regulate e-cigs and restrict their sale to anyone under 18.

      The study by researchers at the Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science (TCORS) at Georgia State University found that most smokers who have tried electronic cigarettes have rejected them as less satisfying than regular cigarettes, thus reducing their potential as a quit-smoking device.

      E-cigs "need to improve as a satisfying alternative or the attractiveness and appeal of regular cigarette must be degraded to increase the potential of replacing regular cigarettes," according to lead author Dr. Terry F. Pechacek, professor of Health Management and Policy.

      "It can be argued that efforts are needed by the public health community to reduce the appeal and attractiveness of the cigarette and other combusted tobacco products, namely, decreasing the product, promotion, placement and price advantage of these more lethal combusted tobacco products," the researchers wrote.

      The findings are published in Nicotine & Tobacco Research.

      Survey details

      The researchers surveyed 5,717 U.S. adults in 2014, asking questions about their awareness of e-cigarettes, use of their products, and reasons for using traditional and novel tobacco products.

      Among the 144 former cigarette smokers who had tried e-cigarettes, nearly 30 percent (or 43 people) continued to use them as a satisfying alternative to regular cigarettes.

      But among the 585 smokers in the study, nearly 58 percent (or 337 people) reported they found e-cigarettes unsatisfying and stopped using them. 

      A new study disputes claims that e-cigarettes are a "disruptive technology" that can help smokers quit by replacing their traditional cigarettes. The study...

      Gas prices may be leveling off as Memorial Day approaches

      The U.S. has a lot more oil and gasoline on hand than it usually does this time of year

      Gasoline prices are still cheaper than consumers have paid in recent years, but they have been rising sharply over the early spring, along with rising oil prices.

      In recent days, however, prices at the pump appear to have leveled off. The national average price of self-serve regular is $2.20 a gallon, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Survey.

      That's down slightly from the day before, and about a penny less than the national average a week ago. In previous weeks, the price at the pump had been rising three or four cents every seven days.

      Motorists in the Midwest have seen some of the sharpest price declines in the last week. Seven days ago the Ohio statewide average was $2.29 a gallon. Today. it's $2.16.

      In Michigan, the statewide average has fallen from $2.30 a gallon to $2.20 in the last week. In Indiana, the statewide average is down 13 cents a gallon in the last week.

      Refinery output increasing

      While oil prices have risen in recent weeks, prices are still well below recent historical norms. Supplies are ample and there is no indication that's going to change anytime soon. More important to regions like the Midwest, refineries are turning out gasoline at increased capacity, with no breakdowns or accidents that have reduced output periodically, resulting in price spikes.

      Here's why that isn't like to change soon. Last week's report from the Energy Information Administration showed the U.S. supplies of both crude oil and refined gasoline are getting bigger.

      While it hasn't had a huge effect on oil prices, mainly because of the Canadian wildfires threatening the Alberta oil fields, it's had a softening effect on the price of gasoline. The government energy report showed U.S. gasoline supplies increased by 500,000 barrels, adding to an already generous inventory, in the upper range of the average over the last five years.

      A top for oil?

      As for oil, a lot of hedge funds are betting its price breaks $50 a barrel, but that price might prove elusive for a while. The Canadian fires should not impact U.S. oil supplies since the U.S. doesn't get a lot of its oil from those particular oil fields.

      The firing of the Saudi Arabian oil minister over the weekend, and his replacement with an official firmly committed to the Saudi policy of lower prices, is another sign that oil prices could head lower in the short run.

      Iran and Saudi Arabia agree on very little, but both countries seem to be in agreement that OPEC should not curtail production. All that oil has to go somewhere, and will likely depress prices, not raise them.

      Gasoline prices are still cheaper than consumers have paid in recent years, but they have been rising sharply over the early spring, along with rising oil ...

      Chase offers new rewards credit card

      Chase Freedom Unlimited pays 1.5% cash back on everything

      Chase is now advertising a new credit card, the Chase Freedom Unlimited Card, a companion to its Chase Freedom Preferred.

      While the Preferred pays 1% cash back on most purchases, and 5% on rotating categories, the Unlimited, as its name implies, pays 1.5% cash back on an unlimited amount of everything, with no annual fee.

      The card has four main features that make it attractive. First, the aforementioned 1.5% cash back on every purchase. Other cards usually have caps.

      You can redeem for cash back at any time, and the rewards you rack up don't expire, assuming your account remains active.

      Bonus cash

      The card also pays a $150 bonus after you spend $500 during the first three months the account is open. If you add an authorized user, you earn another $25 reward, if that user also makes a purchase during the first three months.

      The Unlimited also has a 15 month introductory rate of 0% APR on purchases. That would allow you to finance a significant purchase and pay for it over 15 months without paying any interest.

      If you want to transfer a balance from another card, you get the same 15 month introductory period at 0% interest. However, there is a 5% balance transfer fee.

      After the 0% introductory period, the variable interest rate on both purchases and balance transfers is 14.24%, 19.24%, or 23.24%, depending on creditworthiness.

      Consumer protections

      Like many credit cards, the Unlimited comes with some consumer protections. In case of fraud, the cardholder has zero liability. It also allows you to decline a rental car company's collision damage waiver, providing replacement coverage at no extra charge, as long as you use the card to pay the entire cost of the rental car.

      There is also an insurance policy of sorts on new purchases. The Unlimited's Purchase Protection feature covers your new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per account.

      Its price protection feature can make sure you always get the best price. If a card purchase made in the U.S. is advertised for less in print or online within 90 days, you can receive the difference, up to $500 per item and $2,500 per year.

      Chase is now advertising a new credit card, the Chase Freedom Unlimited Card, a companion to its Chase Freedom Preferred.While the Preferred pays 1% ca...

      Giant Eagle recalls bulk sunflower seeds

      The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

      Giant Eagle is recalling sunflower seeds sold in the bulk section of three central Ohio area Market District stores.

      The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

      There are no reported illnesses to date associated with this recall.

      The recalled product was sold in the bulk foods sections of the Kingsdale, Grandview Yard and Dublin Market District locations with a PLU of 65167.

      It was available for purchase both loose within the bulk bin between February 15, 2016 and May 3, 2016, and in pre-packaged containers with sell by dates of August 1, 2016 through August 19, 2016.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled product should dispose of it or return it to their local Market District store for a refund.

      Consumers with questions may call Giant Eagle Customer Care at 1-800-553-2324 Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. (EST).

      Giant Eagle is recalling sunflower seeds sold in the bulk section of three central Ohio area Market District stores. The product may be contaminate...

      Kia recalls Optimas with air bag issue

      The second stage of the driver's front air bag will not deploy properly

      Kia Motors America is recalling 17 model year 2016 Kia Optimas manufactured November 10, 2015, to February 12, 2016.

      A chemical enhancer required for the for the second stage deployment of the driver's front air bag was not loaded, resulting in the second stage not deploying in necessitating crashes, increasing the risk of injury or death.

      What to do

      Kia will notify owners, and dealers will replace the driver's front air bag module, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in May 2016.

      Owners may contact Kia customer service at 1-800-333-4542. Kia's number for this recall is SC131.

      Kia Motors America is recalling 17 model year 2016 Kia Optimas manufactured November 10, 2015, to February 12, 2016. A chemical enhancer required f...

      Kroger recalls sunflower products

      The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

      The Kroger Co. is recalling Kroger Sunflower Salad Toppers, Kroger Sunflower Kernels, and Kroger Cranberry Delight Trail Mix.

      The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

      No customer illnesses have been reported to date.

      Stores operating under the following names are included in this recall:

      • Kroger,
      • Jay–C,
      • Dillons,
      • Bakers,
      • Gerbes,
      • King Soopers,
      • City Market,
      • Fry's,
      • Ralphs,
      • Food 4 Less and
      • Smith's.

      Products can be found in the following states:

      • Alabama,
      • Arizona,
      • Arkansas,
      • California,
      • Colorado,
      • Georgia,
      • Idaho,
      • Illinois,
      • Indiana,
      • Kansas,
      • Kentucky,
      • Louisiana,
      • Michigan,
      • Mississippi,
      • Missouri,
      • Montana,
      • Nebraska,
      • Nevada,
      • New Mexico,
      • North Carolina,
      • Ohio,
      • South Carolina,
      • Tennessee,
      • Texas,
      • Utah,
      • Virginia,
      • West Virginia and
      • Wyoming.

      The following items are being recalled:

      ProductUPCCodesSize
      Kroger Salad Toppers Sunflower Kernels0001111002127Sell By: DEC0316 and DEC04163.5 oz
      Kroger Sunflower Kernels0001111061877Sell By: DEC1116, DEC1316 and DEC14166 oz.
      Kroger Cranberry Delight Trail Mix0001111089869Sell By: MAR0917, MAR1017, MAR1117 and APR111714 oz.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled products should not consume them, but return them to a store for a full refund or replacement.

      Consumers with questions may contact Kroger at 1-800-KROGERS, Monday – Friday 8:00 am – 12:00 am (EST) and Saturday – Sunday 8:00 am – 9:00 pm (EST).

      The Kroger Co. is recalling Kroger Sunflower Salad Toppers, Kroger Sunflower Kernels, and Kroger Cranberry Delight Trail Mix. The products may be c...

      BRP recalls side-by-side off-road vehicles

      The vehicle can lose steering control, posing a crash hazard

      BRP U.S. of Sturtevant, Wis., is recalling about 10,600 side-by-side off-road vehicles.

      The steering coupling can strip on the rack and pinion assembly and result in a loss of steering control, posing a crash hazard.

      The firm has received 29 incident reports, including two reports of minor injuries.

      This recall involves model year 2013 Can-Am Commander side-by-side vehicles equipped with Dynamic Power Steering (DPS). The vehicles came in various colors. The model name and Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is on a label under the glove box.

      Recalled models include:

      • COMMANDER DPS 1000EFI
      • COMMANDER DPS 800REFI
      • COMMANDER LTD 1000EFI
      • COMMANDER X 1000EFI
      • COMMANDER XT 1000EFI
      • COMMANDER XT XT 800REFI

      The vehicles, manufactured in Mexico, were sold at Can-Am dealers nationwide from April 2012, through April 2016, for between $12,600 and $20,100.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled vehicles and contact a BRP Can-Am side-by-side dealer to schedule an appointment for a vehicle inspection and free repair. The free repair will be available on June 30, 2016. In the meantime, consumers who must use their vehicles can contact a BRP Can-Am side-by-side dealer and make an appointment to have their vehicles verified. This free verification is a temporary action to allow limited use of the vehicles until the availability of the free repair. BRP is notifying registered consumers directly about this recall.

      Consumers may contact BRP toll-free at 888-272-9222 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (ET) Monday through Sunday or online at www.can-am.brp.com for more information.  

      BRP U.S. of Sturtevant, Wis., is recalling about 10,600 side-by-side off-road vehicles. The steering coupling can strip on the rack and pinion asse...

      Protecting yourself from credit card fraud

      Fraud becoming more common, but not more costly for consumers

      Having someone steal your credit card information and use it to run up unauthorized purchases can be an unnerving experience. But in reality, it's not a costly one. At least not for the victims.

      A new report by MagnifyMoney shows most consumers who experience credit card fraud do not suffer a financial loss. The survey finds credit card companies are living up to promises of $0 liability in case of fraud.

      Of course, it's a little easier for credit card issuers to do that now, since now the liability for fraud falls on the merchant. But even before that transition took place last October, Magnify Money found that 96% of credit card fraud victims never had to pay a dime.

      While 22.1% of consumers have reported credit card fraud, 93% of those incidents involved a criminal compromising a card, not the cardholder's identity. There is a very clear distinction.

      Difference between account and identity fraud

      When someone gains access to your credit card information, he or she can use it to buy things, at least until the issuer finds out and blocks further transactions. But if a criminal opens a new credit card account in your name, because he or she has stolen your identity, that's a much more dangerous event, since it could be months before the fraud is discovered.

      Nick Clements, the co-founder of MagnifyMoney, says consumers need to realize that some type of fraud will probably affect them at some point, and preventing it is probably going to be a difficult task. That said, he notes consumers can play a big role in reducing its effects.

      “Our effort should be focused on early detection and rapid reporting of any credit card fraud,” Clements said.

      That can be aided, he says, by using available tools to detect fraud early and avoid financial loss.

      Doubts about chip card

      The new chip and signature cards are supposed to bring credit card fraud to a halt, but Clements expresses some doubts. He says chip cards may help reduce some fraud at physical locations, but won't provide additional security in online and mobile transactions.

      Additionally, many retailers – and even law enforcement – have said someone with a stolen credit card can easily forge a signature. Without requiring a PIN to complete the transaction, they say the new cards are less secure.

      Many retail locations that have installed the new chip card readers still are not using them. Clements says there have been many complaints about transaction times. The survey showed that 20% of respondents complained that the chip cards are “painfully slow.”

      What to do

      The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has some advice to project yourself against credit card fraud. It starts with keeping you card in a secure place at all times. It also suggests making a list – on paper, not electronically – of all your credit card numbers and contact information, so you can quickly report any suspicious activity.

      Other tips include:

      • Don't give your credit card information to anyone over the phone unless you initiated the call
      • During a transaction, try not to let your card get out of your sight
      • Check your bills for unauthorized activity as soon as they are available

      Having someone steal your credit card information and use it to run up unauthorized purchases can be an unnerving experience. But in reality, it's not a co...

      European pressed coffee can cause health problems

      The grounds that slip through can increase your "bad" cholesterol, expert warns

      All coffee is not created equal. And it's not brewed equally either, which can lead to unexpected health risks, according to nutrition expert Eric Rimm of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

      Rimm is talking about European pressed coffee, which is gaining popularity among coffee lovers in the U.S. 

      If you're not familiar with it, pressed coffee is made in -- what else? -- a press, a special glass pitcher. You put the ground coffee in the pitcher, pour in some boiling water, and then press a mesh plunger down to strain the grounds.

      The catch is that, unlike other brewing methods, some coffee grounds can slip through and wind up in your cup. The problem with that is that coffee grounds contain oily substances, called diterpenes, that may raise your "bad" LDL cholesterol.

      Not too much

      Rimm recommends that if you become enamored with pressed coffee you shouldn't drink too much of it, preferably no more than four cups per day. He also recommends checking your cholesterol regularly to make sure your LDL stays under control.

      In general, coffee is considered healthful. It has been associated with lower blood pressure, slower weight gain with age, and reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, hearth disease, and neurological problems.

      But even so, there are limits, Rimm says. For non-press coffee, he suggests holding your intake to no more than five cups per day.

      All coffee is not created equal. And it's not brewed equally either, which can lead to unexpected health risks, according to nutrition expert Eric Rimm of ...

      More Millennials living with Mom

      Low wages and high rents leave them with few housing options

      What do you do if you are young and facing rising home prices and escalating rents? Chances are you move into your old room at Mom's house.

      A new report from real estate marketplace company Zillow says that's exactly what an increasing number of Millennials are doing. In it's latest analysis, it found 21% of people age 24 to 34 live with their mothers, and the number has been steadily rising since 2005.

      "With today's high rents and lagging income growth, many young people are having trouble setting aside enough money to buy their own home, delaying home ownership," said Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell.

      She says living with parents, sometimes rent-free, may allow young people to continue their education. Others use the time to save up their money for a security deposit and first and last month's rent, in anticipation of being able to get a place of their own.

      What they're up against

      Friday's April jobs numbers show some of the things they are up against. Job creation slowed considerably in April and average income per hour, while rising slightly, is still lagging behind some faster-rising costs like rent.

      Here's another intimidating statistic; in 2008, the year of the financial crisis, the median household income in the U.S. was $57,200, according to the Census Bureau. Last year it was $53,657. Meanwhile, home prices and rents – along with education and health care costs – continue to skyrocket.

      Though living with parents into adulthood might seem usual, it has been a common practice at other periods in the not-too-distant past, usually because of economic dislocation.

      Common during the Great Depression

      During the Great Depression, multi-generational families often lived under the same roof because young families could not afford a place of their own -- and because of the economic collapse, there was less new housing being added.

      In the aftermath of World War II, the same thing happened because home building had stopped during the four years of the war and there was no place for returning GIs to live. That situation gave rise to the suburbs and early housing developments like Levittown, N.Y.

      Zillow has tracked the rapid rise of rents in the U.S., noting that rents have risen 3% while wages have increased just 1.8%.

      Breaking the trend down geographically, Zillow finds the largest percentage of young people who have moved back home reside in El Paso, Tex., where almost 34% of Millennials live with Mom.

      Other areas where Millennials have moved back home in large numbers include Miami, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Ventura, Calif.

      Unless there is a big change in economic fortunes, this multi-generational housing trend might not change anytime soon. Zillow reports the median rent in the U.S. is $1,389 a month and projects it will rise to $1,426 over the next 12 months.

      What do you do if you are young and facing rising home prices and escalating rents? Chances are you move into your old room at Mom's house.A new report...

      Employment growth stumbles in April

      The jobless rate held steady at 5.0%

      Job growth in the U.S. fell to its lowest level in seven months during April.

      According to the Department of Labor (DOL), nonfarm payroll employment rose by just 160,000 last month, with the unemployment rate holding at 5.0%. In addition, the government revised the job gains in March and February downward by 7,000 and 12,000 respectively.

      The slowdown in job growth came as the labor force participation rate fell to 62.8% and the employment-population ratio dropped to 59.7%. On the bright side, average hourly earnings rose by eight cents to $25.53, following an increase of six cents in March. Over the year, average hourly earnings are up 2.5%.

      Gainers and losers

      Professional and business services added 65,000 jobs in April, followed by health care employment (+44,000) and financial activities (+20,000).

      Mining employment declined again in April (-7,000) and, since reaching a peak in September 2014, has decreased by 191,000, with more than three-quarters of the loss in mining support activities.

      There was little or no change in other major industries, including construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, retail trade, transportation and warehousing, information, leisure and hospitality, and government.

      Who's working and who's not

      Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate for Hispanics rose to 6.1%, while the rates for adult men (4.6%), adult women (4.5%), teenagers (16.0%), Whites (4.3%), Blacks (8.8%) and Asians (3.8%) showed little or no change.

      The number of long-term unemployed (those out of work for 27 weeks or more) declined by 150,000 to 2.1 million, accounting for 25.7% of the unemployed.

      The full report is available on the DOL website.

      Job growth in the U.S. fell to its lowest level in seven months during April.According to the Department of Labor (DOL), nonfarm payroll employment ros...

      Another increase for U.S. home prices

      Prices are up nearly 40% from their 2011 low point

      Home prices were on the rise again in March according to CoreLogic.

      The provider of property information, analytics and data-enabled services says its Home Price Index (HPI) shows home prices nationwide -- including distressed sales -- posted a year-over-year gain of 6.7% and were up 2.1% from February.

      “Home prices reached the bottom five years ago, and since then have appreciated almost 40%,” said Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic. “The highest appreciation was in the West, where prices continue to increase at double-digit rates.”

      Looking ahead

      The CoreLogic HPI Forecast indicates home prices will rise 5.3% on a year-over-year basis from March 2016 to March 2017, and 0.7% from March 2016 to April 2016.

      The forecast is a projection of home prices using the CoreLogic HPI and other economic variables.

      “Housing helped keep U.S. economic growth afloat in the first quarter of 2016 as residential investment recorded its strongest gain since the end of 2012,” said Dr. Frank Nothaft, chief economist for CoreLogic. “Low interest rates and increased home building suggest that housing will continue to be a growth driver.”

      The 55+ housing market

      In other housing news, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) says builder confidence in the single-family 55+ housing market remained in positive territory for the first quarter of 2016

      Despite a six-point dip -- from 61 to 55 -- in the NAHB 55+ Housing Market Index from the previous quarter, this is the eighth consecutive quarter with a reading above 50. An index number above 50 indicates that more builders view conditions as good than poor.

      "Although builder sentiment in the 55+ housing sector is down slightly from its peak, overall confidence is still in positive territory," said Jim Chapman, chairman of NAHB's 55+ Housing Industry Council. "Builders for the 55+ market are doing quite well in some areas across the country, while others are experiencing challenges that are hindering production."

      Home prices were on the rise again in March according to CoreLogic.The provider of property information, analytics and data-e...