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Scott Horsley

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.

Horsley spent a decade on the White House beat, covering both the Trump and Obama administrations. Before that, he was a San Diego-based business reporter for NPR, covering fast food, gasoline prices, and the California electricity crunch of 2000. He also reported from the Pentagon during the early phases of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Before joining NPR in 2001, Horsley worked for NPR Member stations in San Diego and Tampa, as well as commercial radio stations in Boston and Concord, New Hampshire. Horsley began his professional career as a production assistant for NPR's Morning Edition.

Horsley earned a bachelor's degree from Harvard University and an MBA from San Diego State University. He lives in Washington, D.C.

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NOEL KING, HOST:

Another 881,000 people applied for state unemployment benefits last week, the Labor Department says. That's 130,000 fewer than the previous week. But the report comes with an asterisk.

The department just changed the way it adjusts claims data to account for seasonal variation. That should make the reports more accurate in the weeks to come. But it also means the reported change from the previous week is not an apples-to-apples comparison.

Without the seasonal adjustment, state unemployment claims rose by more than 7,500.

The pandemic is taking a big toll on the government's bottom line.

The federal government's accumulated debt burden is projected to be larger than the overall economy next year for the first time since 1946. Debt is expected to reach an all-time high of 107% of gross domestic product in 2023.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office expects the deficit to reach $3.3 trillion in the fiscal year ending this month. That's about 16% of GDP — a level not seen since the end of World War II in 1945.

With the start of a new month, some workers may get a boost in their take-home pay. The Trump administration has given employers the option to stop collecting payroll taxes for most workers through the end of this year.

President Trump announced the move three weeks ago, after failing to reach a deal with Congress on a more comprehensive pandemic relief package.

"This will mean bigger paychecks for working families as we race to produce a vaccine," Trump said.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Starting tomorrow, some workers may get a boost in their take-home pay. That's because the Trump administration has given employers the option to stop collecting payroll taxes through the end of this year. The windfall is only temporary, though. Unless Congress decides to forgive the taxes, employees will have to repay the money next year. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

Americans spent more money on cars, health care and eating out last month than they did in June. The Commerce Department says consumer spending rose 1.9% in July.

The punch bowl can stay.

The Federal Reserve is adjusting its long-term policy on inflation and employment, and says it will no longer tap the brakes preemptively to prevent the economy from overheating — a job famously likened to taking away the punch bowl just as the party gets going.

Almost 30 million people are now collecting unemployment benefits. Yet President Trump still gets relatively high marks for his handling of the economy.

As Republicans focus on "opportunity" at their convention Tuesday, the economy remains one of the president's strongest selling points.

"You see the kind of numbers that we're putting up. They're unbelievable," Trump told supporters in Minnesota last week. "More jobs in the last three months than ever before."

The Trump administration has struck a small-scale trade agreement with the European Union that could send more American lobster across the Atlantic.

Europe has agreed to suspend tariffs on imports of live and frozen lobster from the U.S. for at least 5 years. In exchange, the U.S. will cut tariffs by 50% on some European products, including crystal glassware and cigarette lighters.

Updated at 9:50 a.m. ET

President Trump's plan to boost unemployment benefits temporarily by $300 a week is getting a fairly cool reception around the country.

Since Trump made the offer earlier this month, fewer than half the states have taken him up on it.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

President Trump's plan to boost unemployment benefits by $300 a week is getting a fairly cool reception around the country. A $600 a week benefit expired last month. And in the 10 days since Trump made the offer, only a handful of states say they will take him up on it. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC today that the president's plan is starting to catch on.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

Summer temperatures in Glendale, Ariz., frequently climb to 110 degrees.

"I can go outside and scramble eggs on the sidewalk," says Glendale resident Leandra Ramirez. "That's crazy."

Air conditioning is essential. And now that she and her family are at home all day during the pandemic, Ramirez's AC is running around the clock.

With lights out in many offices and shuttered businesses, millions of people — both with and without jobs — are plugging in at home. Residential demand for power in the U.S. has soared, even as commercial and industrial use have declined.

First-time claims for state unemployment benefits dropped below 1 million last week for the first time since the pandemic hit the economy in March. Claims under a special pandemic program for gig workers and others who are typically not eligible for unemployment also fell.

The drop may signal an improvement in the job market. Jobless benefits have also become less valuable, since a $600 per week federal supplement expired at the end of July.

President Trump wants to give a $100 billion boost to the U.S. economy by hitting the "pause" button on workers' payroll taxes.

That would leave more money in people's paychecks. But the move — which Trump ordered over the weekend — is only temporary. And that could produce headaches down the road for workers, employers and the Social Security system.

Updated at 8:45 a.m. ET

U.S. employers added 1.8 million jobs last month, as the unemployment rate dipped to 10.2%.

The pace of hiring slowed from June, when employers added a record 4.8 million jobs. That suggests a long road back to full employment for the tens of millions of people who have been laid off during the coronavirus pandemic.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Updated at 9 a.m ET

Ordinarily when people lose their job, they spend less money. But something unusual happened this spring when tens of millions of people were suddenly thrown out of work by the coronavirus pandemic.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Updated at 9:32 a.m. ET

The coronavirus pandemic triggered the sharpest economic contraction in modern American history, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

For years, Matt Harris dreamed about building a treehouse out behind his back fence in Knoxville, Tenn. He never got around to it, though, until the pandemic hit.

"It was just a matter of finding time," Harris says. "And that didn't come until everything kind of shut down for a little bit."

When the coronavirus canceled youth sports for the season, Harris suddenly found his weekends free. And his children — ages 8, 7 and 4 — made a willing construction crew.

The federal deficit ballooned last month as the U.S. government tried to cushion the blow from the coronavirus pandemic. The red ink in June alone totaled $864 billion.

The federal government ran a bigger deficit last month alone than it usually does all year. Washington spent hundreds of billions of dollars trying to prop up small businesses and assist laid-off workers.

Updated at 8:44 a.m. ET

From airlines to paper mills, the job news is grim, and there are growing signs it won't be getting better anytime soon. On Thursday, the Labor Department reported nearly 2.4 million new applications for state and federal unemployment benefits last week.

Federal regulators have finalized a new rule for payday lenders that strips out a key provision crafted during the Obama administration. Under the revised rule, lenders will no longer have to check that borrowers can repay their loan when it comes due.

Consumer advocates say that without that protection, borrowers often get trapped having to borrow again and again, at interest rates of up to 400%.

Updated at 5 p.m. ET

Employers added a record 4.8 million jobs last month, as the U.S. economy continued to slowly bounce back from a deep and painful coronavirus recession. The unemployment rate dipped to 11.1%.

Job growth accelerated from May, when revised figures show employers added 2.7 million jobs.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Updated at 4:45 p.m. ET

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott imposed new limits on bars and restaurants Friday, one day after declaring he didn't want to move backward and shut down businesses.

But many people aren't waiting. Faced with a growing number of coronavirus cases across the South and West, they're making their own choices about spending, and many have already locked down their wallets.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Updated at 1:25 p.m. ET

Just as supplies of toilet paper are finally getting back to normal, the coronavirus has triggered another shortage of something we typically take for granted: pocket change.

Banks around the U.S. are running low on nickels, dimes, quarters and even pennies. And the Federal Reserve, which supplies banks, has been forced to ration scarce supplies.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

BJ Leiderman still writes our theme music, but pocket change is the new toilet paper. How's that for a transition?

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