BANGOR — Gov. Paul LePage says he agrees with an assessment by Forbes Magazine that Maine has the worst business climate in the nation.

LePage told the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday that while he’s been trying for the past two years to turn Maine into a more business-friendly state, a lot more work needs to be done.

The Republican governor cited several reasons for Maine’s poor ranking — it was the third year in a row that Forbes put the state at the bottom of its list — but he singled out energy costs.

He said residents pay 24 percent above the national average for power, and energy costs for businesses are 14 percent higher than the U.S. as a whole.

Unemployment claims rise 17,000 last week

WASHINGTON — The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose last week by 17,000, reversing four weeks of declines.

The Labor Department reported that a seasonally adjusted 361,000 people sought unemployment aid the week ended Dec. 15, from a revised 344,000 the week before. But the less-volatile four-week moving average fell 13,750 to 367,750, the lowest since late October, suggesting that the job market is still growing modestly.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs. So the drop of the four-week average suggests that companies are cutting fewer jobs, even if they aren’t hiring enough to lower the unemployment rate significantly.

US economy grew at 3.1 percent in summer

WASHINGTON — The U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of 3.1 percent over the summer as consumers spent more and state and local governments added to growth for the first time in nearly three years. But the economy is likely slowing in the current quarter.

The Commerce Department’s third and final estimate of growth for the July-September quarter was revised up from its estimate a month ago of a 2.7 percent annual rate.

The third-quarter growth was more than double the 1.3 percent growth in April-June.

Cuba protests US fines on bank transactions

HAVANA — Havana on Thursday protested recent U.S. government fines levied against two banks found to have enabled countries subject to U.S. sanctions, including Cuba, to make prohibited transactions through American financial institutions.

In a statement, the island’s Foreign Ministry called the penalties “unjust and illegal” and noted that they came on the heels of a U.N. vote in which world nations once again voted to condemn the 50-year-old U.S. embargo against Cuba.

Compiled from wire reports

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