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Virent: The Madison biofuel firm advances to the second stage of a National Advanced Biofuels Consortium program for cellulosic biomass. The program, funded with $35 million under the 2009 federal stimulus bill, seeks the development of a fuel from corn or wood chips that could be used in current transportation infrastructure. Virent achieved that goal with both materials in the first stage of the program; California-based Amyris was the only other firm out of the program’s original six companies to be named to stage two.
Real estate: The Wisconsin Realtors Association reports a spike in home sales in July over the same month of 2010, but says prices continued to fall. Sales of existing homes rose by more than 34 percent last month, though analysts anticipated an increase over last year’s totals because of the end of the federal rebate program for homebuyers. WRA Board Chairman John Horning said sales were frontloaded last year because of the rebate, leading to comparatively slow sales figures in April, May and June and a larger-than-usual increase last month. The median price of existing homes, meanwhile, dropped nearly 6 percent over the July 2010. WRA President Bill Malkasian attributed the decrease to either a continued soft economy or to a shift to sales of smaller properties.
Jobs: The state unemployment rate rose two-tenths of a percentage point to 7.8 percent in July as the state lost 8,200 jobs — a figure that included 12,500 private-sector jobs lost in the month with 4,300 new jobs in government added in. The 7.8 percent rate for July is lower than it was one year ago, but up slightly from when Gov. Scott Walker took office in January. His administration attributes the losses to national and international factors beyond its control, but critics charge that the governor must take responsibility for both the good and bad in the state’s job market. The national unemployment rate was 9.1 percent for July, down a tenth of a point.