Summary Box: Layoffs, food prices slow economy

JOBS SCARCE: Unemployment applications ticked up to a seasonally adjusted 427,000 last week. It marked the ninth straight week in which applications have been above 400,000. That trend represents a setback after applications had been declining all winter.

FOOD PRICES HIGH: Grocery store prices will likely remain high this year because heavy rains and flooding will reduce corn supplies. That could make everything from beef to cereal to soft drinks more expensive.

WEAK ECONOMY: The combination of sluggish hiring and elevated food prices could crimp consumer spending and slow the economy.