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Nov. 29, 2012 at 10:48 PM
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Markets close in the black

NEW YORK, Nov. 29 (UPI) -- U.S. stocks posted gains Thursday after the Labor Department said 23,000 fewer first-time unemployment benefit claims were filed in the week.

Some of the drop can be attributed to the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, but the effects of the megastorm, which hit New York and New Jersey in late October, have to be a smaller part of the picture each week.

Regardless, initial jobless benefits claims for the week fell to 393,000, dropping closer to the 369,000 figure posted just before the hurricane hit.

The Commerce Department revised its third-quarter gross domestic product estimate, saying the economy grew 2.7 percent in the quarter compared with the second quarter.

The report trumps an October report that pegged economic growth at 2 percent.

By close of trading on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 36.71 points, or 0.28 percent, to 13,021.82.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq index added 20.25 points, or 0.68 percent, to 3,012.03. The Standard & Poor's 500 was up 6.02 points, or 0.43 percent, to 1,415.95.

On the New York Stock Exchange, 2,168 stocks advanced and 858 declined on a volume of 3.3 billion shares traded.

The 10-year treasury note rose 4/32 to yield 1.619 percent.

The euro rose to $1.2975 from Wednesday's $1.2953. The dollar rose to 82.13 yen from 82.08 yen.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index climbed 0.99 percent, 92.53 points, to 9,400.88.

Britain's FTSE 100 index added 1.15 percent, 67.02 points, to 5,870.30.

In New York, a push to unionize fast-food

NEW YORK, Nov. 29 (UPI) -- Labor experts say high turnover is a key challenge in trying to organize fast-food workers, some of whom are currently attempting to strike in Manhattan.

"These jobs have extremely high turnover, so by the time you get around to organizing folks, they're not on the job anymore," said Ruth Milkman, a sociology professor at the City University of New York.

Workers stood outside a McDonald's restaurant on the east side of Manhattan early Thursday chanting: "Hey, hey, what do you say. We demand fair pay," as 14 of 17 workers at the restaurant's morning shift went on strike, The New York Times reported.

"We don't get paid for what we do. It really is living in poverty," said Raymond Lopez, who earns $8.75 per hour after working for two years at the restaurant.

"We can't pay rent, pay bills,'' said Hector Henningham, a manager, who said he earns $8 per hour, having worked at the restaurant for eight years.

"It's a fairly high-turnover position, so there's never been a successful union effort," said Tim McIntyre, a spokesman for Domino's Pizza. "People who are doing this part time, seasonally or as they work their way through college don't find much interest in membership."

Community and civil rights groups and a labor union have recently made a massive effort to organize fast-food workers in what some call the largest push ever to unionize the industry.

New York, a union-friendly city, is on their side the Times said.

"The fast-food industry employs tens of thousands of workers in New York and pays them poverty wages. A lot of them can't afford to get by. A lot have to rely on public assistance, and taxpayers are often footing the bill because these companies are not paying a living wage," said Jonathan Westin, organizing director at New York Communities for Change, which is helping organize a union campaign effort called Fast Food Forward.

The New York State Labor Department said the median wage for fast-food workers was $9 per hour, which comes to about $18,500 per year.

McDonald's issued a statement saying it treats its employees well and that is reflected in the service at restaurants.

"McDonald's values our employees and has consistently remained committed to them, so in turn they can provide quality service to our customers," the company said.

Elite jobs go to fellow elites

CHICAGO, Nov. 29 (UPI) -- Elite U.S. banks, law firms and consulting firms hire qualified candidates they would like to hang out with or hit on, a researcher says.

Lauren A. Rivera, an assistant professor of management and organizations and sociology at Northwestern University, conducted 120 interviews -- 40 per industry -- from 2006 through 2008 and conducted fieldwork within the recruiting department of an elite professional service company over nine months in 2006 and 2007.

More than half in the study ranked cultural fit -- the perceived similarity to a firm's existing employee base in leisure pursuits, background and self-presentation -- as the most important criterion at the job interview stage, Rivera said.

"It is important to note that this does not mean employers are hiring unqualified people," Rivera said. "But, my findings demonstrate that -- in many respects -- employers hire in a manner more closely resembling the choice of friends or romantic partners than how one might expect employers to select new workers. When you look at the decision to date or marry someone what you think about is commonalities. Do you have a similar level of education? Did you go to a similar caliber school? Do you enjoy similar activities? Are you excited to talk to each other? Do you feel the spark? These types of things are salient at least to the employers I've studied."

The job evaluators were predominately white, Ivy League-educated, upper-middle or upper-class men and women who tend to have more stereotypically masculine leisure pursuits and favor extracurricular activities associated with people of their background, Rivera said.

Starbucks reaches higher: $7 per cup

SEATTLE, Nov. 29 (UPI) -- U.S. coffee chain Starbucks says rare and sensational are the reasons behind its most expensive java to date, a $7 cup of Costa Rica Finca Palmilera.

The coffee is being offered at fewer than 50 out of 11,000 Starbucks outlets, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.

In addition, Starbucks spokeswoman Alisa Martinez said, it leaves "a tingly, kind of light feeling. It's a very exquisite coffee."

The Finca Palmilera is made up of two brands Starbucks calls their Geisha heirloom varieties.

These were first discovered in Ethiopia although they have been grown in Central America since the 1950s, the newspaper said.

Martinez said Starbucks has 3,800 pounds of Finca Palmilera to sell.

But comedian Jimmy Kimmel said consumers were just being taken for a ride.

"I feel like this is a test to find out just how stupid we are," he said.

"Although, while it's ridiculous to spend $7 on a cup of coffee, it's actually not that much more ridiculous to spend $4 on a cup of coffee," Kimmel said on his show.

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