Business news from the Fredericksburg region.

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Unemployment rates fall in 21 states

WASHINGTON—More than two-thirds of the states reported job gains in March, as hiring has improved for much of the country during what has been a sluggish but sustained 4½-year recovery.

The Labor Department said Friday that unemployment rates dropped in 21 states, rose in 17 and were unchanged in the remaining 12. Meanwhile, hiring increased in 34 states and fell in 16.

The unemployment rate varies from as low as 2.6 percent in North Dakota to as much as 8.7 percent in Rhode Island. South Carolina has experienced the sharpest rate decline over 12 months, to 5.5 percent from 8 percent.

The rate nationwide stayed at 6.7 percent in March for the second straight month. That national rate stayed flat because someone was hired for almost every person who entered the job market last month.

Employers added 192,000 jobs nationwide in March, close to the average monthly gains of the past two years.

Venture investments jump to $9.5B in 1Q

NEW YORK—Funding for U.S. startup companies soared 57 percent in the first quarter to a level not seen since 2001, as venture capitalists piled more money into an increasing number of deals, according to a report due out Friday.

Startup investments totaled $9.47 billion in the first three months of 2014, up from $6.01 billion in the first quarter of 2013. It was the highest since $11.5 billion in the second quarter of 2001.

There were 951 deals completed in the quarter.

Online storage startup Dropbox snagged the period’s top deal with $325 million. Vacation rental site Airbnb and mobile messaging service TangoMe tied for the No. 2 spot with $200 million each.

The MoneyTree study was conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association, based on Thomson Reuters data.

U.S. newspaper industry revenue fell 2.6 percent in 2013

NEW YORK—U.S. newspaper industry revenue continued to fall last year, as increases in circulation revenue failed to offset shrinking demand for print advertising.

The Newspaper Association of America says the industry’s revenue fell 2.6 percent to $37.59 billion in 2013.

Revenue from print advertising dropped 8.6 percent to $17.3 billion, while circulation revenue rose 3.7 percent to $10.87 billion.

Newspapers have looked in recent years to replace declining print advertising and circulation revenue with contributions from online sources.

While digital advertising revenue increased 1.5 percent to $3.42 billion last year, it is still less than 10 percent of the industry’s overall revenue.

Court declines to block drug ruling

WASHINGTON—The Supreme Court has declined to temporarily block a lower court ruling that opens the world’s best-selling multiple sclerosis drug to competition from generic rivals.

The order Friday from Chief Justice John Roberts is a victory for rivals challenging the maker of the drug Copaxone, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.

Teva claims the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit wrongly overturned five of its patents for the drug. That ruling allows rivals Mylan Inc., Momenta Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Sandoz Inc. to start selling cheaper generic versions next month instead of September 2015.

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case, but arguments won’t take place until its new term begins in October. Teva said it would suffer irreparable harm if the appeals court decision was not postponed.

Dominion installs largest rooftop solar system in Virginia

Dominion Virginia Power has completed the installation of the state’s largest rooftop solar system at the Canon Environmental Technology plant in Gloucester. The solar panels will generate more than 500 kilowatts of electricity, or enough to power 125 homes.

Maryland legislature OKs wage increase

ANNAPOLIS, Md.—In a plan approved by the legislature, full-time minimum-wage workers in Maryland will ultimately make about $875 less annually than they would have under the governor’s proposed timetable, an economic analyst said.

Legislators voted last week to have Maryland’s minimum wage reach $10.10 an hour by July 2018, whereas Gov. Martin O’Malley originally wanted it to reach that amount by July 2016.

David Cooper, an analyst for the pro-minimum wage group Economic Policy Institute, said that by mid-2018, $10.10 will be worth about $9.25 in today’s dollars.

—Associated Press