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Troubled Winona bridge needs more repairs

Winona, MN (AP) — A Mississippi River bridge between southeastern Minnesota and southwest Wisconsin that authorities closed for repairs last summer needs more work.

During a routine inspection, inspectors found concrete flaking from the Interstate Bridge that connects downtown Winona to Wisconsin.

Crews closed the bridge for 11 days last year when inspectors found severely corroded gusset plates. A Minnesota Department of Transportation spokeswoman said current problems don’t pose a similar danger and there’s no need to close the bridge.

Crews will temporarily close a parking lot beneath the bridge on the Minnesota side as they patch up the flaking concrete. After it’s fixed, inspectors will analyze the bridge deck to see if more repairs are needed.

Unemployment drops in Wisconsin to 8.8 percent

Madison (AP) — Unemployment in Wisconsin dropped slightly to 8.8 percent in April, according to state figures released Thursday.

The rate was down from 9.4 percent in March, the state Department of Workforce Development said. The agency estimated about 17,000 more people had a job in April than in March.

Employment typically increases from March to April because seasonal work begins, said Eric Grosso, a DWD labor economist.

The construction industry, for example, added 6,100 jobs in April. The leisure and hospitality sector added 5,900 jobs, largely at resorts preparing for summer travelers, Grosso said.

Still, April’s unemployment rate was 4.6 percentage points higher than in April 2008.

The national unemployment rate in April was 8.6 percent, down from 9 percent in March but still nearly 4 percentage points higher than in April of last year.

UK confirms first-quarter GDP down 1.9 percent

London (AP) — The U.K. economy shrank by 1.9 percent in the first quarter, the government said Friday, confirming the preliminary figure reported earlier.

GDP in the first quarter was 4.1 percent below the previous year, the Office for National Statistics said.

Between the fourth quarter and the first quarter, the agency said manufacturing output fell 5.5 percent, construction dropped 2.4 percent and service industries fell 1.2 percent.

The International Monetary Fund has predicted a 4.1 percent drop in U.K. output this year.

British Treasury Chief Alistair Darling forecast GDP will fall by 3.5 percent, and said he expects growth to resume before the end of the year.

Romanian economy shrinks as jobs get cut

Bucharest, Romania (AP) — Unemployment will continue to rise sharply in Romania as the economy is set to shrink this year despite an International Monetary Fund-led bailout loan of $26.4 billion, an IMF official said Friday.

IMF Romania mission chief Jeffrey Franks said economic results for the first few months of 2009 “were substantially worse” than expected, calling the downturn “quite sharp.” This follows strong economic growth of over 6 percent in the years before the financial crisis. However, he noted that pressure on the financial markets had started to ease.

The unemployment rate has climbed to about 5.7 percent; it could top 8 percent by the end of the year.

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