Pacific Northwest About 1,500 people who bought tickets from Alaska or Horizon airlines have been notified their credit cards were misused...

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Aviation

About 1,500 people who bought tickets from Alaska or Horizon airlines have been notified their credit cards were misused.

Alaska Air Group said a call-center employee diverted some payments to a personal account.

Customers are not responsible for repaying the diversions that took place between August 2006 and June 2008.

The Seattle-based parent company for the airlines said it notified police and is cooperating with the investigation.

Alaska Air said customers should review their credit-card statements for any unauthorized transactions.

Economy

Average wage rises 5 percent in state

Washington’s average wage rose nearly 5 percent last year, beating inflation for the third year in a row, according to new data from the state Employment Security Department.

Among the nearly 2.93 million jobs covered by the state’s unemployment-insurance program, the average wage last year was $45,023, compared with $42,888 in 2006.

The information sector, which includes software and other technology industries, had the highest average wage: $96,241. Wages in the finance and insurance sector grew the fastest last year, 9.9 percent.

Jobs in accommodation and food services paid the least: $16,017. Arts, entertainment and recreation jobs had the slowest wage growth: 1.8 percent.

King and Snohomish counties, with a heavy concentration of jobs in the best-paying sectors, had the highest average annual wages of any county in the state: $56,217 and $45,448, respectively.

Retail

Zumiez sees slip in apparel sales

Zumiez, an Everett-based retailer of sports apparel, shoes and equipment, said Wednesday that sales at stores open for at least a year fell 1.4 percent in July, double the drop analysts had expected.

Total sales for the four weeks ended Aug. 2 rose 12.7 percent to $31.7 million, driven by newly opened stores.

“Footwear and skate hardgoods posted positive comps for the month, offset by negative comps in accessories, juniors, men’s and boys apparel,” Zumiez Chief Financial Officer Trevor Lang said in a recorded phone message.

Shares of Zumiez rose 91 cents Wednesday to $14.43. The sales numbers were released after the market closed.

Internet

InfoSpace stock jumps 21 percent

InfoSpace stock soared 21 percent Wednesday, the biggest gain in almost a year, after its sales forecast exceeded analysts’ estimates.

The Bellevue-based Internet search company said Tuesday that third-quarter revenue will amount to at least $37 million, topping the $36.4 million average of estimates compiled by Bloomberg News. Profit and sales in the previous three-month period also exceeded analysts’ predictions.

InfoSpace’s stock climbed $1.86 to $10.70 Wednesday.

Waste management

LeMay to be sold to California firm

Tacoma-based LeMay Enterprises — the company that provides garbage and recycling services in Pierce, Thurston, Lewis and Grays Harbor counties — is being sold to a California company.

Folsom-based Waste Connections, which operates in 23 states, announced the agreement Tuesday. It said the deal, which is subject to regulatory approval and local municipal consents, is expected to close by the end of the year.

LeMay is one of the largest privately owned solid-waste services company in the Northwest, with annual revenue of about $100 million. It has about 240 employees. Founder Harold LeMay, who died eight years ago, was also known for his collection of more than 2,400 vintage cars in Tacoma.

Software

Microsoft upgrades database program

Microsoft released a new version of its SQL Server program for databases as it fights to win sales from Oracle.

The new version can store more data and has improved performance, Microsoft Vice President Ted Kummert said on a conference call Wednesday. SQL Server 2008 is already available to some customers, the company said.

Nation / World

Telecommunications

Qwest earnings off, but beat forecasts

Earnings at Qwest fell 24 percent in the second quarter, the company said Wednesday, but the result still narrowly beat Wall Street estimates.

The Denver-based phone company also projected a drop in revenue this year that could be larger than analysts had expected, as economic weakness and slowness in the housing market curbs the expansion of phone lines.

Qwest earned $188 million, or 11 cents per share, in the quarter that ended in June. That compares with earnings of $246 million, or 13 cents per share, in the same quarter a year ago. Sales came to $3.38 billion, a 2 percent decline from last year.

Analysts expected Qwest to post earnings of 10 cents per share on $3.4 billion in revenue, according to Thomson Financial.

Qwest shares fell 14 cents to $3.45.

Qwest lost 799,000 consumer and small-business phone lines in a year, or 8.8 percent of its total.

Like fellow phone companies AT&T and Verizon, Qwest also posted weaker growth in broadband subscribers in the quarter, at just 31,000.

Telecommunications

Sprint sees tough 3rd quarter ahead

Sprint Nextel Corp.’s up-and-down road to recovery continued Wednesday as the company reported adjusted second-quarter results that beat Wall Street expectations as well as a slower loss of subscribers.

But the nation’s third-largest wireless carrier also said it expected customer losses to ramp back up next quarter and said was selling $3 billion in convertible stock, partly to pay down debt.

Sprint lost $344 million, or 12 cents per share, versus earnings of $19 million, or 1 cent per share, during the same period a year ago.

Sprint’s shares tumbled $1.21, or 14.2 percent, to close at $7.34.

Compiled from Bloomberg News, The Associated Press and Seattle Times staff