Business

Louisiana and Metro Baton Rouge business news.

On many economic issues, Americans are deeply divided. But when it comes to giving pay raises to minimum wage workers, voters overwhelmingly say: Do it.

That message jumped out Tuesday when more than 6 in 10 voters in New Jersey approved an increase in their state's minimum hourly wage. In January, the wage will rise to $8.25, well above the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour.

In recent years, companies ranging from JPMorgan Chase to Walmart to Boeing have announced special hiring programs for veterans. Seattle coffee giant Starbucks is the latest.

All of these companies are trying to bring down a stubbornly high unemployment rate for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. But to succeed, companies have to take the time to understand the skills of service members.

Payday lenders made about $49 billion in high-interest loans last year. More than a third of those loans were made online. I wondered what happens when you apply for such a loan, so I decided to find out.

In the course of reporting a story earlier this year, I logged on to a site called eTaxLoan.com and filled out an application.

I asked for $500 and, to be safe, I made up an address, a name (Mary) and a Social Security number. The site asked for more sensitive stuff — a bank account number and a routing number — and I made that up, too.

Since the financial crisis hit five years ago, there aren't as many Americans starting new businesses. In uncertain economic times, it's harder for entrepreneurs and investors to take the risk.

And if you look back over the past 25 years, it turns out the overall trend is toward fewer new businesses getting started, too — and that's not good at all when the country needs more jobs.

The Next Google

On a quiet fall morning in the Delaware countryside, a lone sustained whistle pierces the air. Within moments, a train sweeps around a broad curve, its two heavy locomotives hauling dozens of white, cylindrical rail cars, loaded with 70,000 barrels of crude oil.

In recent weeks, economists have been worrying about the negative impact of the now-ended government shutdown and potential debt crisis.

But away from Capitol Hill, the economy has been getting a big boost: Gasoline prices have been declining, week after week. In some parts of the country, a gallon of unleaded regular gasoline is now down to less than $3 a gallon — a price most Americans haven't seen in three years.

And any time the pump price starts dropping, consumer spirits start rising.

Natural gas production in the U.S. is going through the roof. The U.S. now produces more natural gas than any country on Earth, according to a recent report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

We have been reporting for several weeks now on small businesses in America. Today, we explore a business system where entrepreneurs and corporations come together: franchising. Franchising is a bit like marriage. It takes a good long-term relationship to succeed.

Forty years ago this week, the U.S. was hit by an oil shock that reverberates until this day.

Arab oil producers cut off exports to the U.S. to protest American military support for Israel in its 1973 war with Egypt and Syria. This brought soaring gas prices and long lines at filling stations, and it contributed to a major economic downturn in the U.S.

The embargo made the U.S. feel heavily dependent on Middle Eastern oil, which in turn led the U.S. to focus on instability in that region, which has since included multiple wars and other U.S. military interventions.

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