2019-06-12 bz-quicksp1

A woman using a cellphone walks past T-Mobile and Sprint stores in New York. Reports say a group of state attorneys general filed a lawsuit Tuesday to block a $26.5 billion merger of wireless carriers T-Mobile and Sprint. AP file

States sue to stop $26.5 billion T-Mobile merger with Sprint

NEW YORK — A group of state attorneys general led by New York and California filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday to block T-Mobile’s $26.5 billion bid for Sprint, citing consumer harm.

The state attorneys general said the merger would hurt competition and drive up prices for cellphone service. They said the promised benefits, such as better networks in rural areas and faster service overall, cannot be verified, while eliminating a major wireless company will immediately harm consumers.

New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement that combining the two companies would “cause irreparable harm to mobile subscribers nationwide by cutting access to affordable, reliable wireless service for millions of Americans.” She said the deal would particularly affect lower-income and minority communities in New York and other urban areas.

Other attorneys general joining Tuesday’s lawsuit are from Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Virginia and Wisconsin. All 10 attorneys general are Democrats. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in New York.

It’s an unusual step by the state attorneys general ahead of a decision by federal antitrust authorities. The Justice Department’s decision is pending. The Republican majority of the Federal Communications Commission supports the deal.

Labor report shows wholesale prices blip up 0.1% in May

WASHINGTON — U.S. wholesale prices rose just 0.1% in May, another sign that inflation remains under control.

The Labor Department said the increase last month in its producer price index, which measures inflation pressures before they reach consumers, was half April’s 0.2% increase.

The entire gain in May came from a 0.3% increase in the wholesale price of services. Goods prices fell 0.2%.

Over the past year, producer prices have risen 1.8%. Excluding the volatile food and energy categories, wholesale prices rose 0.2% in May from April and 2.3% from May 2018.

Inflation remains tame, enabling the Federal Reserve to stop raising interest rates after four hikes in 2018. Investors increasingly expect the Fed to cut rates amid signs the U.S. and world economies are decelerating.

Hobby Lobby donates land for proposed transit hub in OKC

OKLAHOMA CITY — Hobby Lobby is donating an acre of land for the proposed expansion of a commuter bus hub in southwest Oklahoma City.

The national arts and crafts retailer’s estimated $300,000 donation will help metro transit agency Embark relocate and expand the city’s southwest location from two shelters to an open-air hub, said Michael Scoggins, an agency spokesman.

The new hub will include bathrooms, more lighting, improved weather shelters and route information technology, Scoggins said.

“Hobby Lobby’s generosity will help Embark further improve the customer experience while elevating the presence of public transit in the area,” said Jason Ferbrache, Embark’s director.

Ferbrache said the current bus location can become congested. It’s the second busiest stop in the bus system, serving more than 300 passengers a day.

Construction industry suffering from worker shortage

Lynn Osborne of Fort Collins, Colorado, has been remodeling two homes. The two projects had one constant: delays due to a shortage of skilled labor.

Current estimates indicate there are about 300,000 unfilled jobs in the construction industry, and the industry is expected to need an additional 747,000 workers by 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

An August survey of nearly 375 members of the National Kitchen and Bath Association found that almost two-thirds of the respondents said they had difficulties hiring skilled workers in the previous year, and nearly 70% felt the problem had gotten worse since 2016.

“Labor shortages have impacted start dates and completion dates on construction and renovation projects, with NKBA members citing delays on 30% of jobs,” said Bill Darcy, chief executive officer of the trade association.

Compounding the problem is the graying of the remaining workforce, with the median age for a construction worker at 42.5 years, according to January figures from the Labor Bureau. It’s estimated that for every five workers retiring from the industry, only one is entering it, said Silvia Lattoz, Governance and Global Relations Senior Manager at NKBA.