Business news from the Fredericksburg region.

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3 area firms fastest growing in Virginia

Three Fredericksburg-area companies were named among the fastest-growing firms in Virginia on Thursday night.

The companies were honored at the Virginia Chamber of Commerce’s 19th annual “Fantastic 50” awards banquet in Chantilly. The awards are based on four-year revenue history for privately held companies based in Virginia.

Spotsylvania County-based defense contractors SimVentions Inc. and Cortek Inc. and Fredericksburg-based environmental consulting firm Marstel–Day LLC all made the list.

—Bill Freehling

Microbrewery to open in Stafford County

A homebrew shop in Stafford County will expand to become a microbrewery.

Shorts Branch Brewing Supply, which is operated out of Aquia Pines Campground, will soon serve beer brewed on site.

The brewery will be called Wild Run and will be run by Everett Lovell. He said there will be five beers served on tap: an IPA, two pale ales, a red and a stout.

Lovell said he expects to open by June 1.

—Robyn Sidersky

U.S. gains 288k jobs, most in two years

WASHINGTON—U.S. employers added a robust 288,000 jobs in April, the most in two years, the strongest evidence to date that the economy is picking up after a brutal winter-slowed growth.

The Labor Department also said Friday that the unemployment rate sank to 6.3 percent, its lowest level since September 2008, from 6.7 percent in March. But the drop occurred because the number of people working or seeking work fell sharply. People aren’t counted as unemployed if they’re not looking for a job.

Many of those who stopped looking for work last month had been among the long-term unemployed—people out of work for six months or more. The number of long-term unemployed fell 300,000, the sharpest drop in 2 years, to 3.5 million. Economists said most of them likely gave up looking for work rather than found jobs.

Yet the vigorous job growth in April provided confirmation that the U.S. economy is regaining its health after nearly stalling early this year, when a harsh winter nearly stalled growth. In addition to last month’s burst of hiring, employers added more jobs in February and March than previously estimated. The job totals for those two months were revised up by a combined 36,000.

U.S. factory orders increase in March

WASHINGTON—Orders to U.S. factories advanced strongly in March for a second month while demand in a key category that signals business investment plans increased by the largest amount in more than a year. The strength was further evidence that the economy was rebounding after a harsh winter.

Orders increased 1.1 percent in March after increasing 1.5 percent in February, the Commerce Department reported Friday. Those gains followed two months of declines in December and January.

Orders for core capital goods, considered a good proxy for business investment, jumped 3.5 percent in March, rebounding from a 0.9 percent drop in February. It was the biggest increase since January 2013.

—Associated Press