John Ydstie

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In this country yesterday, the nationwide average price for a gallon of regular gas was just below $2.20; that's according to AAA. Some people have been paying less than $2. NPR's John Ydstie reports the falling prices are likely to continue.

The economy was floored by the polar vortex early on in 2014 — plus, businesses and consumers were still a little dazed by a government shutdown and debt ceiling fight late in 2013.

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, says it all produced an anxious start to the year. "Yeah, a lot of worry, particularly because we had misstepped a few other times during the recovery," he says. "We had these false dawns when we really thought the economy was going to kick into gear and then we kind of fell back into the morass."

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This weekend, Will Falls decided to skip the local mall near Raleigh, N.C., and shop online instead.

"No standing in line, no finding a parking spot," he says. "Just get comfortable and go at it."

Millions of Americans did the same — Falls helped contribute to an 8.5 percent increase in online shopping Monday compared with 2013, according to data from IBM.

That growth stands in contrast to an 11 percent drop in sales reported by the National Retail Federation at brick-and-mortar stores over the Black Friday weekend compared with a year ago.

Don Benfield of Taylorsville, N.C., makes $11 an hour working for a mobile-home parts business, selling things like replacement doors and windows.

Benfield, 51, doesn't have health insurance.

"I haven't had health care insurance in years, simply because I haven't been able to afford it, especially with food prices, how they went up," he explains.

Benfield's employer does offer health insurance coverage, even though, with fewer than 50 employees, the business is not required to.

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It's being challenged in the Supreme Court. Members of the new Republican Congress want to repeal it. But Obamacare will get a second chance on Saturday, when enrollment opens again in the government-sponsored health exchanges.

The Obama administration is expecting over 3 million new enrollees and almost 6 million return customers. And while the system faces some challenges, the government says it's up to the task.

Oil prices fell again Tuesday, to just below $76 a barrel before recovering slightly — one day after Saudi Arabia cut prices for the crude it sells in the U.S. market.

During most of the last quarter-century, that would have been viewed as a very positive development for the U.S. economy. But oil production here has increased so quickly in the past several years, the continuing price drops pose a potential threat to U.S. oil producers.

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Exactly one year ago, the Obamacare insurance exchanges stumbled into existence. Consumers struggled to sign up for its online marketplace — and the Obama administration was pummeled. Eventually, HealthCare.gov's problems were mostly fixed, and two weeks ago, the administration announced 7.3 million people have bought insurance through it so far this year.

So, was the health exchanges' first year a success — or something less?

Ask President Obama, and he says you measure the Affordable Care Act's success this way:

The price of oil has been falling — a drop that you may already have noticed at the pump. Gasoline prices have dropped noticeably since June, and oil is now well below $100 a barrel.

That decline has happened even as conflicts have flared in or near oil-producing regions. Normally, oil prices are expected to spike higher amid turmoil — so why have they been trending lower?

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Health care costs have been rising, but not rising as quickly as they used to. We just learned that the cost of employer-sponsored health insurance rose just 3 percent this year, fitting that trend.

Here's NPR's John Ydstie.

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The most expensive stock on the New York Stock Exchange just got a little more expensive. A Class A share of Berkshire Hathaway is now worth more than $200,000.

On Thursday, shares closed up $3,500 at $202,850. The Omaha, Neb.-based company has a market value of more than $333 billion.

Berkshire Hathaway is the company created and run by Warren Buffett for nearly five decades now. The conglomerate owns more than 80 firms, including Geico Insurance, BNSF Railway and Dairy Queen.

Overall, climate change is predicted to hurt agriculture around the world. It could even threaten corn production in the Corn Belt.

But in North Dakota conditions are now better for raising corn, and that's a big benefit for farmers.

When I was growing up in Wolford, N.D., up near the Canadian border, wheat was king. It had been the dominant crop since the prairie was first plowed in the late 1800s. So it was kind of strange to go back this summer and find Larry Slaubaugh, a local farmer, filling his 18-wheeler with corn from a huge steel grain bin.

Climate change is creating all kinds of challenges and opportunities for business. One of the sectors that feels the effects most immediately is agriculture. Already, weather patterns are making it more challenging to raise corn — even in Iowa — in the middle of the Corn Belt.

Seth Watkins raises corn and cattle in southern Iowa, and he recalls the memorable weather from 2012.

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And from food to fuel, corn is a major pillar of the U.S. economy. It's the country's biggest crop. One-third of all U.S. cropland is dedicated to corn. A new study says climate change and unsustainable irrigation practices are a long-term threat to U.S. corn production. The study calls on farmers, governments and businesses to cooperate to head off those negative effects. NPR's John Ydstie has more.

The Labor Department released its monthly employment report on Friday. The economy added 217,000 jobs in May, and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 6.3 percent.

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The economy nearly stalled out here in the U.S. in the beginning of the year, according to the government. That slowdown was blamed largely on winter storms that clobbered much of the country last winter. Recent data suggests the economy has warmed up. There's hope that will be confirmed this morning when the monthly job numbers for April are released. NPR's John Ydstie reports.

The economy slowed sharply in the first quarter, with data released Wednesday showing that growth was barely positive. Federal Reserve policymakers wrapped up a meeting Wednesday with a statement saying the economy had actually picked up a bit in recent weeks. They voted unanimously to continue winding down their stimulus program.

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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block in Dallas.

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And I'm Robert Siegel in Washington, where President Obama cheered the Affordable Care Act today.

The Affordable Care Act — which many see creating challenges for businesses — could benefit a particular group of business people: entrepreneurs.

Joshua Simonson was reluctant to give up his job at a Portland, Ore., area grocery store, New Seasons Market, which he says had provided excellent health care for him and his family. He had a pre-existing condition that has prevented him from getting insurance in the private market, but one key development helped convince him to quit and start a farm.

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It was pretty clear that the recent bout of winter weather that many of us have seen was going to have an effect on job growth in February. The question was how much. And it turns out less than expected. That's the message from the government's monthly employment report that's out today. It found that U.S. employers added 175,000 jobs to their payrolls last month. As NPR's John Ydstie reports, it's more than expected.

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