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US consumer spending, income jump in February

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ U.S. consumers stepped up spending in February after their income jumped, aided by a stronger job market that offset some of the drag from higher taxes. The gains led economists to predict stronger economic growth at the start of the year.

Consumer spending rose 0.7 percent in February from January, the Commerce Department said Friday. It was the biggest gain in five months and followed a revised 0.4 percent rise in January, which was double the initial estimate.

Americans were able to spend more because their income rose 1.1 percent last month. That followed huge swings in the previous two months, which reflected a rush to pay bonuses and dividends in December before taxes increased.

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Unemployment fell in February in 22 US states

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Unemployment rates fell in 22 U.S. states in February from January, a sign that hiring gains are benefiting many parts of the country.

The Labor Department said Friday that unemployment rates rose in 12 states and were unchanged in 16.

Nationally, the unemployment rate slid to a four-year low of 7.7 percent in February, down from 7.9 percent in January. Since November, employers across the country have added an average of 200,000 jobs a month, nearly double the average from last spring.

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Cleaner gas rule would mean higher price at pump

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The Obama administration's newest anti-pollution plan would ping American drivers where they wince the most: at the gas pump. That makes arguments weighing the cost against the health benefits politically potent.

The proposal to reduce sulfur in gasoline and tighten auto emission standards, released Friday, would raise gasoline prices by less than a penny per gallon, the Environmental Protection Agency says. But the oil industry points to its own study putting the cost between 6 and 9 cents a gallon.

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