Money in a Minute: Headlines for April 7, 2011

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In today's news: The government may not be able to pay employees, the unemployment rate is down, the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau needs protection from Republicans, solar energy heats up, and Toyota hybrids get help from Microsoft.

BUDGET CRISIS: 800,000 federal workers in the dark

The stalemate between Democrats and Republicans over the budget is serious enough that there’s already talk about which federal workers will be sitting at home after Friday – the deadline for a deal. It’s likely that more than 1 million essential employees will be asked to come to work – and not be paid,” CNN Money reports. “But workers deemed non-essential won’t be allowed to come to work or work from home. They won’t even be allowed to turn on their BlackBerries.”

JOBS: Unemployment falls in three-quarters of U.S. cities

Big cities are finally seeing big employment numbers. “More than three-quarters of the nation’s 372 largest metro areas reported lower unemployment rates in February than the previous month,” USA Today reports. “Los Angeles-Long Beach, with a gain of 53,600; New York City-Northern New Jersey, a gain of 18,500; and Miami-Fort Lauderdale, up 16,800.”

CONSUMER PROTECTION: Republicans aim to weaken consumer bureau

While the federal budge battle consumes everyone’s attention, consumers face some cutbacks of their own. House Republicans want to “dilute, delay and curtail powers of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,” CNN reports. “The new consumer bureau was the most popular part of the Wall Street reforms passed into law last year. But it was also the most politically controversial.”

ENERGY: Solar power may already rival coal, prompting installation surge

Can solar energy really out-produce coal? Experts are considering the possibility. “Solar panel installations may surge in the next two years as the cost of generating electricity from the sun rivals coal-fueled plants,” Bloomberg reports. “Large photovoltaic projects will cost $1.45 a watt to build by 2020, half the current price.”

TECHNOLOGY: Toyota, Microsoft hooking up on vehicle software

Microsoft wants to make your car more fuel-efficient. “It sounds like the system will involve just about everything in a car that can be controlled by a computer,” USA Today reports. The new tech partnership debuts next year in Toyota hybrid vehicles.

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