Here’s what’s important in the business world this morning:
Freddie: Government-controlled mortgage giant Freddie Mac is requesting $19 million in additional federal aid after posting a loss for the first quarter of this year.
That is less than the $146 million that Freddie received from the government for the fourth quarter of 2011. The company received $7.6 billion for all of 2011 and $13 billion for all of 2010.
McLean, Va.-based Freddie Mac said Thursday that its net loss attributable to common stockholders was $1.2 billion, or 38 cents a share, in the January-March period. That compares with a net loss of $929 million, or 29 cents a share, in the first quarter of 2011.
The government rescued Freddie and larger sibling Fannie Mae in September 2008 after massive losses on risky mortgages threatened to topple them.
Unemployment: The number of people seeking unemployment benefits fell last week by the most in nearly a year.
The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly unemployment aid applications fell 27,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 365,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, ticked up to 383,500 last week.
However, other recent data have been mixed. A survey by payroll provider ADP, released Wednesday, said businesses sharply cut back on hiring in April.
On Friday, analysts expect the government to report that employers added 163,000 jobs in April, while the unemployment rate was unchanged at 8.2 percent. That would be an improvement from March, when job growth slowed to just 120,000. But it would be below the average of 246,000 jobs a month added from December through February.
ECB: The European Central Bank has left its benchmark interest rate unchanged despite worsening growth forecasts for the 17 countries that use the euro.
The bank's governing council kept the key refinancing rate at a record low of 1 percent.
Market attention will focus on bank President Mario Draghi's growth outlook at a news conference, and whether he will signal the bank could be more open to a possible rate cut down the road.
U.S. Workers: U.S. worker productivity fell from January through March by the most in a year.
While worker output rose, the number of hours worked increased by an even larger amount. That lowered productivity in the first quarter at an annual rate of 0.5 percent, the Labor Department said Thursday.
Productivity is the amount of output per hour of work. It fell after increasing at an annual rate of 1.2 percent in the October-December quarter.
The decline after lackluster output last year could be a positive sign for jobseekers. It could signal that companies are struggling to squeeze more from their work forces and must hire to meet rising demand.
U.S. Futures: U.S. stock market futures edged higher Thursday after General Motors Corp. posted first-quarter results that beat Wall Street expectations and the government said the number of people seeking unemployment benefits fell sharply last week.
Dow Jones industrial average futures were up 0.07 percent at 13,213. Standard & Poor's 500 futures added 0.09 percent at 1,398.70, and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 0.17 percent to 2,732.25.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.