The nation's unemployment rate shot up in December to its highest level in more than three years, hitting 6.1 percent as more than 1 million people joined the ranks of the unemployed since June, the government said Friday. December's 6.1 percent rate was the highest since a similar 6.1 percent reading in July 1987.
* Orders received by the nation's factories plunged a record 5.9 percent in November, the Commerce Department said, pulled down by sharply lower demand for long-lasting durable items like cars and airplanes.
D.C.'s new mayor:
Sharon Pratt Dixon was sworn in Wednesday as mayor of the District of Columbia, taking command of a capital city struggling with budget and social ills.
Dixon, 46, won election last fall as a reformer with a pledge to rid the nation's capital of waste and corruption. She replaced Marion Barry, a three-term mayor who faces a six-month prison sentence for cocaine possession. Barry lost a bid for a City Council post in November -- after his conviction.
Dixon concerns range from a budget deficit estimated at $300 million, a record murder rate and social problems running the gamut from drugs to homelessness and infant mortality.
* Also Wednesday, Jesse L. Jackson took the oath of office for a non-voting, unofficial "shadow" Senate seat. From that post, he and two others in a special "shadow" congressional delegation will try to persuade Capitol Hill lawmakers to grant statehood status to the District of Columbia.
Three of the nation's four biggest banks cut their prime lending rates by half a percent Wednesday, a delayed response to looser federal credit policies meant to stimulate the economy. Besides New York's Citibank, Chase Manhattan Bank, Bank of America and Morgan Guaranty Trust Co., MNC Financial Inc., Maryland's largest banking company, First National Bank of Maryland and the Bank of Baltimore also lowered their rates to 9.5 percent.
Newly sworn-in Rhode Island Gov. Bruce G. Sundlun wasted no time taking action on New Year's Day, closing 45 Rhode Island banks and credit unions covered by a severely depleted insurance fund. The action means customers holding $1.7 billion in 300,000 accounts cannot withdraw their money until further notice.
* On Thursday, federal regulators said they would insure 22 credit unions involved in the Rhode Island closures. Sundlun announced a major bailout plan last night for small depositors at the 16 closed credit unions and savings institutions that have been unable to get federal deposit insurance to re-open.
Back at the well:
Less than three weeks after receiving a $77 million rate increase, Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. has asked the Public Service Commission Wednesday for a fuel rate adjustment increase that would boost its annual revenues by $48 million. The rate change would increase the residential bill for a customer using 900 kilowatts by $1.69 a month.
A new law that took effect Jan. 1 allows the state to suspend or revoke 150 kinds of professional and business licenses for people convicted of drug offenses.
* Within the next few weeks, it was reported Wednesday, state government workers with safety-related jobs could find themselves being summoned for a drug test under a new Maryland policy. Some agencies may begin randomly testing those employees for illegal drug use later this month or in early February, said Catherine Austin, assistant secretary of the state Personnel Department.
Six people who were killed in the city just before New Year's brought the number of slaying victims in Baltimore for 1990 to 305, the most since 1972, when 330 slayings were recorded; the 1972 mark is Baltimore's high. . . . Officially, the once-majestic Belvedere closed its doors as a hotel Tuesday, the victim of an auction sale that was prompted by a year and a half of proceedings in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Baltimore. . . . Poland's Parliament overwhelmingly approved Jan Krzysztof Bielecki as the new prime minister Friday after he pledged to make the unpopular decisions necessary to re-create Poland as "a normal country." . . . Martha Pope on Thursday became the first woman in the Senate's top non-legislative post, sergeant at arms; as sergeant at arms, Pope oversees the Senate's telephone, printing and computer operations and is the Senate's top security officer.