By Lucia Mutikani WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits rose last week, but the underlying trend pointed to a continuing strengthening of labor market conditions. Other data on Thursday suggested a long-awaited acceleration in wage growth was imminent, with labor costs recording their largest increase in more than 5-1/2 years in the second quarter. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 23,000 to a seasonally adjusted 302,000 for the week ended July 26, the Labor Department said. "Unemployment claims have come down a lot as of late and suggest that labor market conditions continue to improve," said Yelena Shulyatyeva, an economist at BNP Paribas in New York.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a 2009 law that establishes a registry for same-sex couples, saying it does not violate an amendment to the state's constitution banning gay marriage. The gay marriage ban was approved by Wisconsin voters in 2006. It now has more than 2,000 couples on it, according to Fair Wisconsin, a gay-rights organization based in Madison. Wisconsin Family Action, an anti-gay rights group, argued in a 2010 lawsuit that the registry violated the amendment because it resembles marriage under state law.
By Gary Robertson RICHMOND Va. (Reuters) - The businessman who federal prosecutors contend gave gifts and loans to former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell and his wife is due to return to the witness stand on Thursday at the couple's corruption trial. The businessman, Jonnie Williams, on Wednesday told a jury in U.S. District Court in Richmond that he had given the couple $165,000 in gifts and loans to benefit the nutritional supplements company he ran at the time, Star Scientific Inc, which has since changed its name to Rock Creek Pharmaceuticals. Defense attorneys had portrayed the relationship between Williams and Maureen McDonnell as more than mercenary, contending in opening statements that the governor's wife had developed a "crush" on Williams at a time when her marriage was falling apart.