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Ford Motor Co. to add 23 models, 11,000 jobs in 2014

Ford Motor Co. says it will hire more than 11,000 people in the U.S. and Asia next year to support an aggressive rollout of new vehicles.

Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of the Americas, said the company plans to hire 5,000 workers in the U.S. – including 3,300 white-collar staff, such as engineers – and 6,000 workers in Asia.

This will be the most people Ford has hired in one year since 2000. Many of those hires will work at two new plants opening in China.

Ford says 2014 will be the busiest product year in its 111-year history, with 23 vehicles being introduced around the world. Of those, 16 will be sold in the U.S., including a new Mustang sports car, Transit Connect van and Lincoln MKC small utility.

Applications surge for jobless aid

The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits rose 68,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 368,000, the largest increase in more than a year.

The surge in first-time applications could be a troubling sign if it lasts. But it likely reflects the difficulty adjusting for delays after the Thanksgiving holiday.

The Labor Department said Thursday that the less volatile four-week average rose 6,000 to 328,750. That is close to pre-recession levels and generally a positive sign for job gains.

Applications had tumbled in recent weeks to nearly six-year lows, partly because of a late Thanksgiving holiday that may have distorted the government’s seasonal adjustments.

Economists believe this week’s jump in claims was a dose of payback.

US stockpiles jump by most in 9 months

U.S. companies boosted their stockpiles at the fastest rate in nine months in October as their sales grew. The gain in restocking indicates businesses anticipated a healthy holiday shopping season.

Business inventories increased 0.7 percent in October, the Commerce Department said Thursday. That follows a 0.6 percent gain in September. Sales rose 0.5 percent, above a 0.3 percent gain the previous month.

The increase could signal better growth in the October-December quarter than some economists had anticipated. Greater restocking boosts growth because it requires more factory production.

Growth is still likely to slow from the July-September quarter’s robust 3.6 percent annual rate, half of which came from a jump in restocking.

Lululemon shares fall after weak forecast

Lululemon’s image problems are starting to take a toll on its business, the yoga clothing seller’s executives acknowledged Thursday.

Shares of Lululemon Athletica Inc. dropped nearly 11 percent after the company said it expects a key sales figure to be flat in the next quarter and trimmed its outlook for the year. It noted that customer traffic in its stores slowed down in November.

The weak forecast comes as Lululemon looks to bounce back from a series of embarrassing issues. This spring, it pulled its Luon line of its popular yoga pants from store shelves after customers complained they were too see-through. The company blamed their sheerness on production problems.

For the quarter that ended Nov. 3, the Canadian company said it earned $66.1 million, or 45 cents per share. That’s up from $57.3 million, or 39 cents per share, a year ago.