Au pair agency leaving Massachusetts in wake of minimum wage ruling

A California-based au pair agency is pulling out of Massachusetts on the heels of a December federal court ruling that foreign childcare providers must be paid the state minimum wage, raising families’ weekly costs by as much as $333 a week. EurAupair matches au pairs with about 30 families in Massachusetts every year, 20 of whom have decided to continue until their contract is up. But the agency, which has been placing caregivers here since it started in 1989, won’t send any new au pairs to Massachusetts due to the court ruling, said President Bill Gustafson. Go Au Pair, in Utah, said that more than a third of its host families in Massachusetts have left the program due to the cost increase but doesn’t anticipate ending operations in the state until families stop seeking out au pairs. About 1,500 au pairs are placed in Massachusetts a year by 13 agencies around the country, according to the State Department, which runs the program. No other departures have been announced, but the newly formed advocacy group Au Pair Families of Massachusetts expects other agencies to end operations here, too. The court ruling technically applies to every state with minimum wages above the federal rate and could affect the entire program. — KATIE JOHNSTON


Federal lawmakers ask GAO to investigate slow approval of renewable energy projects

Frustrated by permitting delays, members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation have asked the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office to investigate the Trump administration’s review and approval of fossil fuel and renewable energy projects. Their Feb. 5 letter to the GAO raises the concern that the Trump administration is using a double standard: expediting fossil fuel projects while slowing down renewable energy projects. The letter doesn’t mention Vineyard Wind by name but that Massachusetts project, planned by Avangrid and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, would be the first major offshore wind farm built in the United States. It has been beset by permitting delays at the federal level. The letter was drafted by Senator Elizabeth Warren’s office. Signatories included Warren, Senator Edward Markey, and Representatives Joseph Kennedy, Richard Neal, William Keating, James McGovern, Katherine Clark, Seth Moulton, and Lori Trahan, all Democrats. — JON CHESTO



Twitter gains daily users

Twitter topped analysts’ projections for fourth-quarter revenue and added more new daily users than expected, citing product improvements and more personalized content on its social network. The shares rose the most in almost a year. Revenue rose 11 percent to $1.01 billion, slightly higher than the $994.5 million predicted in a Bloomberg analyst survey. The company added 7 million daily active users in the period, and now has 152 million people logging in daily on average, up 21 percent from the same period a year earlier. — BLOOMBERG NEWS



Productivity growth at record level in 2019

US productivity rebounded in the final three months of last year, helping to boost productivity growth for the year to the best showing in nearly a decade. The Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics said Thursday that productivity grew at an annual rate of 1.4 percent in the October-December quarter, reversing the direction of a 0.2 percent drop during the third quarter. For the year, productivity increased 1.7 percent, up from 1.3 percent advances in both 2017 and 2018. While a 1.7 percent rise in productivity is considered modest, it was the best annual showing since a 3.4 percent advance in 2010.


New York Times dismisses notion of ‘Trump bump’

The New York Times doesn’t want to hear about the “Trump bump” anymore. The publisher said a broad array of news coverage helped to power a continued rise in digital subscriptions last quarter, with earnings and revenue beating analysts’ expectations. The results caused Times Company shares to jump more than 12 percent and reach their highest point in 15 years. Industry analysts have often linked the Times’ dramatic growth in digital subscribers to President Trump’s unique ability to create a never-ending news cycle that attracts more readers. On an earnings call Thursday, Times Company chief executive Mark Thompson sought to put that notion to rest, calling it a “faulty analysis” and saying the Times doesn’t rely on a single story anymore to attract customers. He cited the paper’s breadth of journalism, including recent coverage of the coronavirus, fires in Australia, the death of Kobe Bryant, and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle giving up their royal titles. — BLOOMBERG NEWS



Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, UMass Lowell team up

A Maine naval shipyard and the University of Massachusetts Lowell have entered into an educational partnership to share technology and enhance student education. The five-year agreement between Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, located in Kittery, Maine, and UMass was signed at a ceremony Tuesday, the Portsmouth Herald reported. It will allow the Navy to make its scientific, engineering, and technology assets and subject matter experts available to university faculty. In turn, the Navy is able to involve UMass Lowell faculty and students in innovative projects underway at the shipyard. — ASSOCIATED PRESS


Coach parent company beats expectations but offers a warning

The luxury brand Tapestry handily beat quarterly profit expectations but warned that the virus outbreak in China is “significantly impacting” its business. The owner of Coach and Kate Spade said Thursday that the majority of its stores in China are now closed. Meanwhile, Tapestry announced Thursday that Liz Fraser has been named CEO and brand president of Kate Spade. The Kate Spade label has been the weaker spot within the Tapestry portfolio. — ASSOCIATED PRESS



Rates keep going down

Mortgage rates continued to decline, giving homebuyers a crack at the lowest borrowing costs in more than three years. The average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage was 3.45 percent, down from 3.51 percent last week and the lowest since July 2016, Freddie Mac data showed Thursday. The 15-year average slipped to 2.97 percent from 3 percent.


Pizza Hut continues to struggle

Yum! Brands Inc. fell after its Pizza Hut chain weighed on fourth quarter results and the company said the virus outbreak in China will be a headwind this year. Pizza Hut’s same-stores sales, a key measure for retailers, dropped by a more-than-estimated 2 percent in the fourth quarter, according to a statement. Yum! Brands chief executive David Gibbs said that the deadly coronavirus may impact the company — which still generates revenue from Asia — and that it was closely monitoring the situation. — BLOOMBERG NEWS


Senators criticize slow progress on rail tunnel

Fifteen Democratic Senators admonished the Trump administration for the sluggish progress on a new rail tunnel between New York and New Jersey, centerpiece of the so-called Gateway program of major infrastructure projects in the critical transit artery. In a letter Thursday, the Democrats, including minority leader Chuck Schumer of New York, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, urged Federal Railroad Administration Administrator Ronald Batory to say when the department will complete an environmental review needed to advance the new Hudson River tunnel, estimated to cost $11.3 billion. — BLOOMBERG NEWS