SpaceX, ULA, Northrop Grumman line up rocket missions at Cape Canaveral

Cape Canaveral is a busy place these days as the cadence of rocket launch continue to increase. And within a few months, the area will be even busier with people clamoring to see a space mission that has not happen in Florida in nearly 10 years. After Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX’s successful demonstration of its Crew Dragon capsule that launched from Kennedy Space Center on March 2 and then splashed down March 8 in the Atlantic Ocean, people anxiously are awaiting the company’s main event: launching astronauts to the International Space Station in July. Astronauts have not been launched to space from America since 2011, so it’s likely that more than 100,000 visitors will come to the Space Coast to view the launch when it happens — which was the estimated visitor increase for when SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy had its maiden launch in February 2018. Orlando Business Journal

SpaceX conducts first tests requiring closures at Boca Chica Beach, Texas

For the first time since SpaceX landed at Boca Chica Beach, Cameron County closed a stretch of State Highway 4 leading to the beach for what’s called a tank test. And there will be more testing today. Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño said he signed an order late Thursday closing the area for a second consecutive day so SpaceX can continue its testing. “There will be a closing on the highway from 10 (a.m.) to 4 (p.m.),” Treviño said. “What they are doing is a tank test. They are fueling the engines and they need to test the tank.” SpaceX performed numerous tests Thursday, he said. “They are fueling the engine and made numerous tests with regards to the fueling and everything,” Treviño said. McAllen Monitor

Black farmers association asks Fed to reject SunTrust, BB&T merger

An organization that represents tens of thousands of black farmers is urging the Federal Reserve Board of Governors to reject the proposed merger of SunTrust Banks Inc. and BB&T Corp. The National Black Farmers Association says it is against the $66 billion merger, which would create the nation’s sixth-largest bank that would be headquartered in Charlotte. “That the proposed merger is moving forward without a lending program to offer full banking services to black and other small-scale farmers is unacceptable,” said John Boyd, founder and president of the National Black Farmers Association. “For decades, the NBFA has raised the issue of a lack of loans to NBFA members by SunTrust and BB&T, it is time for regulators to take some action.” Charlotte Business Journal

Export slump deepens for American whiskey producers

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — American whiskey producers are suffering a worsening hangover from the Trump administration’s trade disputes. Overall exports of bourbon, Tennessee whiskey and rye whiskey fell 11 percent during the second half of 2018 compared to the prior-year period, as the impact of tariffs started to be felt, the Distilled Spirits Council said in a report Thursday. The drop off was even larger in the European Union, the industry’s biggest export market. Last month, the council said total American whiskey exports declined by 8.2 percent between July and November of 2018, but that report did not include December numbers. Brownsville Herald

In foreboding sign for U.S. economy, factory sector softens

WASHINGTON — U.S. manufacturing activity unexpectedly cooled in March, a troubling sign for the economy although the housing market showed signs lower interest rates were giving it a boost.

Financial data firm Markit’s purchasing managers index for U.S. manufacturing fell to 52.5 in March, its lowest level since June 2017. Both new orders and output softened.

Analysts polled by Reuters had expected the gauge to strengthen to 53.6 from 53.0 in February. Readings above 50 point to growth in the sector.

Fracking revolution that’s made the U.S. the top global oil producer is boosting the economy — and keeping emissions down

Even as America grabbles with its love-hate relationship with fossil fuels, the ongoing fracking revolution that’s turned the U.S. into the leading global oil producer is shoring up the economy — and helping to tame carbon emissions, too.

A wave of literally ground-breaking advances in technology have unleashed the U.S. energy industry like never before. Oil production has swelled in the past decade to reach an all-time high in 2018 and push the U.S. past Saudi Arabia and Russia to become the world’s top producer for the first time in 45 years.

Alabama unemployment rate hits new record low

Alabama’s economy keeps roaring, as the state saw in February a new record low jobless rate, and the ninth straight month of record employment numbers.

The state’s Department of Labor today announced that the preliminary February unemployment rate was 3.7 percent, down from 3.8 a month ago.

Last month, Alabama had 2.127 million people employed, an improvement of 27,431 over the previous year. The number of unemployed in February was the second lowest number ever recorded in the state.

Tennessee unemployment rate sets new record low but total number of jobs also drops

NASHVILLE, Tenn.–The statewide unemployment rate in Tennessee set a new record low in February according to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development (TDLWD).

The statewide unemployment rate dropped to 3.2 percent in February, beating the October 2018 record of 3.3% by 0.1 percentage points. Over the past year, the unemployment rate has dropped from 3.6% to 3.2%.