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For every job vacancy, 6.1 unemployed Canadians

These are stories Report on Business is following Tuesday, July 22, 2014.

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Job vacancies improve
It's not what you'd necessarily call good news, but it is better: For every job vacancy in Canada, there are 6.1 people who are unemployed.

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And that, economist Douglas Porter said today, is "mildly encouraging" because the country had been suffering from lower vacancies recently.

According to Statistics Canada today, businesses across the country had a three-month average of 227,000 job vacancies in April, just about the same as a year earlier.

That put the national job vacancy rate at 1.5 per cent, also little changed from a year ago.

But, said Mr. Porter, the chief economist at BMO Nesbitt Burns, the readings from earlier this year were signs of weakening in the labour market.

This is just one month, but at least it has stopped "deteriorating," he noted.

"We've had a lot of negative labour market news recent," Mr. Porter added.

Indeed, the more widely followed unemployment rate inched up in June to 7.1 per cent as the level of employment in Canada notched the slowest annual increase since early 2010, up just 0.4 per cent on a 12-month basis.

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Almost 1.4 million people are without work.

In the first quarter of the year, there were 223,000 vacancies, putting the nation rate at 1.4 per cent. And in March, the number of unemployed Canadians for each vacancy was 6.8.

Saudis to open market
Saudi Arabia is opening a new front for investors, giving them access to the region's largest economy.

The cabinet agreed last night to allow the country's Capital Market Authority "to open the way for foreign financial institutions to buy and sell stocks listed on Tadawul," the Saudi Press Agency said today.

That market is valued at $530-billion (U.S.), and the plan to is to open it up in the first half of next year.

Apple rises
Apple Inc. stock is on the rise this morning in advance of the tech giant's earnings after markets close, and amid reports that it's readying tens of millions of its new large-screen iPhones.

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"Having beaten expectations for five quarters in a row, expectations are high for Apple, but there is hardly a time when expectations are not high for Apple," said market analyst Alastair McCaig of IG in London.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Apple now wants suppliers to churn out between 70 million and 80 million of the new devices by the end of 2014.

That's bigger than last year's orders of between 40 million and 50 million of its iPhone 5S and 5C devices.

Suppliers will soon start making a 4.7-inch model, and a 5.5-inch device, the news organization said.

Harley-Davidson sinks
Are bikers feeling the pinch?

Shares of Harley-Davidson Inc. sank today after the motorcycle maker beat profit estimates but trimmed its projections for shipments.

Harley-Davidson profit climbed in the second quarter of the year to $354.2-million (U.S.), or $1.62 a share, diluted, from $271.7-million or $1.21 a share a year earlier.

Revenue rose to $2-billion from $1.8-billion.

The company, whose stock symbol is HOG, also now forecasts 2014 shipments of between 270,000 and 275,000 globally, down from an earlier forecast of between 279,000 and 284,000.

"U.S. retail Harley-Davidson sales fell short of our expectations in the second quarter," said chief executive officer Keith Wandell.

"Because we are committed to managing supply in line with demand, we are reducing our full-year shipment plan and now expect shipment growth of approximately 3.5 per cent to 5.5 per cent over last year."

A different kind of investment
In Pennsylvania, they're not kidding when they say they've got a bridge to sell you.

Actually, they've got 11, and they're going for cheap. But you have to move the bridge, and actually use it somewhere.

The bridges, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, are state-, county- and municipally-owned ones that are scheduled to be replaced because they don't fit today's needs.

"In an effort to preserve some of Pennsylvania's wonderful historic bridges, the Commonwealth is marketing a number of them, currently scheduled for replacement due to load and width limitations," the department says on its website.

"In the past, we've placed some of our historic bridges with state parks, Rails to Trails projects, and university campuses, and we're actively seeking more opportunities for adaptive reuse of these beautiful old structures.," it adds.

Pennsylvania says it boasts the third-highest number of bridges in the United States.

Up to 80 per cent of the cost of tearing down and moving a bridge can be covered under a federal program.

And according to Reuters, they're selling from between $1 (U.S.) and $500.

Such bridges, according to the department, can be used on bike and walking trails, or in parks, for example.

And not exactly something for your backyard, this one, but the state itself is trying to sell the two-span Pond Eddy Bridge, which is 504 feet long and 16 feet wide.

(Each span is 252 feet, and you can buy them "as a set or individually.")

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