Complaint: You need a job to find a job

Help wanted. Qualifications: Must already have a job. It's a frustrating catch for those out of work in an era of high unemployment: looking for a job, only to find that some employers don't want anyone who doesn't already have one.

But after four years of above-average joblessness in the U.S., efforts to bar such practices by employers have met with mixed results. While New Jersey, Oregon and Washington, D.C., have passed laws making it illegal to discriminate against the unemployed, New York City's billionaire-businessman mayor vetoed on Friday what would have been the most aggressive such measure in the country. Similar proposals have stalled in more than a dozen other states and Congress.

Advocates for the unemployed say such hiring practices are unfair. Businesses say that the extent of such practices is exaggerated, hiring decisions are too complicated to legislate, and employers could end up defending themselves against dubious complaints. Nationally, more than 1 in 3 unemployed workers have been looking for at least six months, says the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Price of oil levels off after 2-day decline

NEW YORK - The price of oil was little changed Friday after a 5 percent fall over the last two days. The drop in crude showed signs of slowing the upward spiral of gas pump prices as well, at least temporarily.

Benchmark crude for April delivery rose 29 cents to finish at $93.13 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

At the pump, the national average for a gallon of regular gas was $3.78, about where it was on Thursday, but 14 cents higher than a week ago and almost half a dollar more than a month ago, according to AAA.

Investor prevails in fight against Apple

NEW YORK - A federal judge is blocking Apple from conducting a shareholder vote on a package of governance proposals, handing a victory to a rebel investor who is trying to persuade the company to share more of its cash with its investors.

U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan in New York ruled Friday that Apple was wrong to bundle four amendments to its corporate charter into one proposal for a vote at next Wednesday's annual meeting. Shareholders should get to vote on the amendments separately, he said.

Greenlight Capital, a hedge fund run by Wall Street maverick David Einhorn, sued Apple over the proposal because it would remove the board's ability to issue preferred stock without shareholder authorization. Einhorn wants Apple to issue "iPrefs," preferred shares with a guaranteed dividend, as a way of committing the company to sharing its massive profits with shareholders.

Microsoft joins list of hacked companies

REDMOND, Wash. - Microsoft has joined the list of prominent technology companies confirming they have been hit by a recent computer hacking attack.

In a blog posting Friday, Microsoft Corp. said it had found no evidence that any customer data had been heisted.

Microsoft gave few other details about the break-in, except to say that it was similar to a hacking attack that online social networking leader Facebook Inc. disclosed last week. Facebook said it discovered other companies had been hacked, but it didn't identify the other victims.

Like Facebook, Microsoft says it is still investigating how malicious software was planted on what it said were a few of its computers.

The online messaging service Twitter also recently disclosed that hackers may have stolen information on about 250,000 of its users.


Economy to shrink again in '13, says EU

BRUSSELS - The European Union predicted Friday that the economy of the 17 member countries that use the euro will shrink again in 2013, even though it expects fortunes to improve in the second half of the year.

In its winter forecast, the EU Commission, the EU's executive arm, said the eurozone is likely to shrink a further 0.3 percent this year, in contrast to November's prediction of 0.1 percent growth.

The debt crisis and the associated belt-tightening are weighing on activity - official figures showed the eurozone contracted 0.6 percent in the final quarter of 2012 from the previous three-month period.

The eurozone has been in recession - officially defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth - since the second quarter of 2012, when concerns about the future of the euro were particularly acute.

One of the key problems is unemployment

The Associated Press