Marilyn Geewax

Marilyn Geewax is a senior editor, assigning and editing business radio stories. She also serves as the national economics correspondent for the NPR web site, and regularly discusses economic issues on NPR's mid-day show Here & Now.

Her work contributed to NPR's 2011 Edward R. Murrow Award for hard news for "The Foreclosure Nightmare." Geewax also worked on the foreclosure-crisis coverage that was recognized with a 2009 Heywood Broun Award.

Before joining NPR in 2008, Geewax served as the national economics correspondent for Cox Newspapers' Washington Bureau. Before that, she worked at Cox's flagship paper, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, first as a business reporter and then as a columnist and editorial board member. She got her start as a business reporter for the Akron Beacon Journal.

Over the years, she has filed news stories from China, Japan, South Africa and Europe. Recently, she headed to Europe to participate in the RIAS German/American Journalist Exchange Program.

Geewax was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard, where she studied economics and international relations. She earned a master's degree at Georgetown University, focusing on international economic affairs, and has a bachelor's degree from The Ohio State University.

She is a member of the National Press Club's Board of Governors and serves on the Global Economic Reporting Initiative Committee for the Society of American Business Editors and Writers.

Transportation funding was going to get plenty of attention this week in Washington — even before an Amtrak train derailed about 140 miles to the north.

This is National Infrastructure Week, so lobbyists, labor leaders and activists started swarming Capitol Hill on Monday, seeking funds for roads, bridges and other projects related to transportation.

The Labor Department's latest report shows employers created 223,000 jobs in April and the unemployment rate went down another notch to 5.4 percent.

So, yay!

But study the wage figures in Friday's report — and your "yay" turns to "meh."

Workers got raises of just 0.1 percent in April. Over the past year, wages advanced only 2.2 percent, a pace that amounts to treading water for most families. The average workweek has stalled at 34.5 hours, unchanged from the previous month — and from a year ago.

Both stock and bond markets had already been having a rough week, and then on Wednesday, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen added to the jitters.

She warned that stock valuations are "generally quite high," and that "there are potential dangers there."

So if you happen to be an investor who wants to buy low and sell high (and really, who doesn't?), then you might take Yellen's comment as a suggestion that it's time to sell.

And that's just what happened: Measures of U.S. stock prices all slipped — down about 0.7 percent by midday.

The global economy won't sink this year, thanks to the oceans of cheap oil keeping it afloat.

That's the bottom line of the World Economic Outlook, released Tuesday by the International Monetary Fund. The 2015 pace of economic growth will tick up to 3.5 percent, helped along by lower energy costs and weaker currencies.

McDonald's has been struggling in recent years to keep pace with fast-casual chains like Five Guys and Chipotle Mexican Grill.

So the fast-food giant is testing different menu options to lure back customers. Starting later this month, McDonald's diners will be able to choose a $4.99 sandwich — the Sirloin Third Pound burger.

Dear March,

We got your news that employers added just 126,000 jobs on your watch. Hate to say it, but you have disappointed everyone. No doubt you'll say you were under the weather — literally. Sure, it was cold, but still ... Let's hope April does better.

Sincerely,

America

On Friday, the Labor Department's report on weak jobs growth left economists scrambling to explain what went wrong in March.

True story: The other day, I attended a speech by IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, who said phone scammers are swarming the country in the run-up to April 15, aka Tax Day.

These criminals call taxpayers and insist they must "immediately give up their personal information or make a payment," Koskinen warned. Don't fall for it.

Congress passed the Affordable Care Act five years ago, but it didn't impose tax penalties for failure to obtain health insurance until this year.

So a big question has hung over this tax-filing season: Would the ACA unleash mass confusion as Americans grappled with new tax rules?

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen today said that so far at least, all has gone "swimmingly."

And for that, we can thank software geeks, he says.

If you live in a town still dotted with dirty piles of old snow, this is not going to come as good news:

The U.S. Census Bureau today listed the nation's fastest-growing metro areas. And it turns out, Americans prefer Florida's sunshine, lakes and beaches to your cloudy, cold climes.

The U.S. economic expansion has been gaining so quickly that foreign investors are paying attention. Many want to open factories and offices that could swell their profits while creating jobs for Americans.

But U.S. growth also has pushed up the value of the dollar, which has surged about 14 percent over the past year relative to other currencies. That makes it more difficult for foreigners to spend their money in the U.S. The dilemma is not lost on the White House.

In this country, all children are supposed to have a shot at success — a chance to jump "from rags to riches" in one generation.

Even if riches remain out of reach, then the belief has been that every hard-working American should be able to go from poverty to the middle class.

On Tuesday, a book and a separate study are being released — both turning up evidence that the one-generation leap is getting harder to accomplish in an economy so tied to education, technological know-how and networking.

A new government report confirms: Wages and prices are going their separate ways.

This breakup is helping consumers on the rebound from recession.

Fresh evidence of the split came Monday in the Commerce Department's monthly report on personal spending, income and saving. It showed paychecks are fatter, prices are leaner and Americans are saving more.

Economists usually worry about a "wage-price spiral" taking hold. That's when workers are earning more, but losing buying power as prices rise.

For now, at least, something very rare is happening: Paychecks and prices are heading in opposite directions.

"You have a schism that's helpful to consumers," IHS economist Doug Handler said about the recent decline in prices and rise in wages.

President Obama revved up quickly for his economic victory lap.

"After a breakthrough year for America, our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999," President Obama said less than a minute into his State of the Union address Tuesday night.

The lap was fueled by cheap gas: "We are as free from the grip of foreign oil as we've been in almost 30 years," he said.

Democrats roared.

Six years ago, homebuilders and Realtors were facing brutal business conditions: millions of Americans were losing their jobs and homes.

As 2015 begins, hiring is strong and economic indicators are pointing up. Could this be the year when the housing market finally breaks out of its tepid recovery and takes off?

Economists see several reasons why 2015 might be a banner year for homebuying — and not just in San Francisco and Miami.

They also see One Big Factor that potentially could block a buying binge.

Each December, economists make predictions. And each new year, they get hit by unexpected events that make them look more clueless than prescient.

This year's bolt out of the blue was the plunge in oil's price, which no one saw coming.

Still, top economists' forecasts did get a lot right for 2014. One year ago, most were predicting healthy growth, tame inflation, low interest rates, rising stock prices and declining unemployment — and that's just what we got.

As the latest Congress draws to a close, economists are looking back — and seeing little.

Lawmakers passed no measures addressing tax reform, trade, immigration or even the minimum wage.

But judged by the very low standards of recent years, the 113th Congress did manage to win at least light applause from economists who are watching as the curtain goes down.

Sure, Congress allowed a disruptive government shutdown in 2013 — but it avoided repeating that drama in 2014.

When it comes to environmental regulations, taxes and the minimum wage, business groups generally object to President Obama's positions, while liberals support him.

But one issue blurs the usual political lines: trade.

Just last week, Obama told the Business Roundtable he would push to complete massive trade deals with both Asian and European nations. "If we can get that done, that's good for American businesses," he said.

As 2014 winds down, you might want to save that calendar hanging next to the fridge.

Maybe even frame it.

After so many years of misery for the middle class, 2014 is now looking like the one that finally brought relief. The November jobs report, released Friday by the Labor Department, had blowout numbers showing a surge in job creation, an upturn in work hours and a meaningful boost in wages.

Thanksgiving is remembered for feasts, family gatherings and ... awkward conversations.

You know what I'm talking about. You're back with relatives you haven't seen in years, and the conversation takes a frightening turn toward politics, religion or, worse, your love life.

You need help. You have to switch to a newsy but neutral topic. Here's a handy list of conversation changers you can use at any time.

Just start each sentence with, "Hey, did you know that ... " and here are the safe categories:

The Road

Airlines are paying less for jet fuel these days. But don't expect that price drop to translate into Thanksgiving travel bargains for you.

Rather than cut fares, airlines are turning fuel savings into cash for acquiring aircraft, upgrading software, rewarding workers and attracting long-term investors, according to John Heimlich, chief economist for Airlines For America, A4A, a trade group.

Besides electing lawmakers Tuesday, voters settled ballot initiatives affecting everything from soda-pop taxes to fracking to marijuana sales.

The outcomes varied, but there was one economic issue that united voters. Overwhelmingly, they approved raises for minimum-wage workers.

All around the country, gasoline prices have been falling for weeks, down to an average of about $3 a gallon. Those lower prices are helping restrain inflation across the board.

On Wednesday, the Labor Department said its consumer price index barely inched up 0.1 percent last month. Over the past 12 months, the CPI has risen by 1.7 percent, roughly half of its historical average rate of increase.

That sounds great for consumers.

At any big-box store, you can find the annual holiday mash-up now on garish display: Halloween costumes are stacked next to the decorative turkey napkins and pre-lit Christmas trees.

It's time to celebrate the Halloween-Thanksgiving-Hanukkah-Christmas-New-Year season!

The dustiest portion of my home library includes the 1980s books — about how Japan's economy would dominate the world.

And then there are the 1990s books — about how the Y2K computer glitch would end the modern era.

Go up one more shelf for the late 2000s books — about oil "peaking." The authors claimed global oil production was reaching a peak and would soon decline, causing economic chaos.

The titles include Peak Oil and the Second Great Depression, Peak Oil Survival and When Oil Peaked.

West Africa is a poor region, struggling to improve its economic growth.

It had been succeeding. Last year, Sierra Leone and Liberia ranked second and sixth among countries with the highest growth in gross domestic product in the world.

In a world already weighed down by too much debt, new troubles are bubbling up. The Ebola virus, terrorist attacks and war are undermining many countries, which means "downside risks have increased" for the global economy.

That gloomy assessment was released Tuesday by the International Monetary Fund. Its forecast for this year's average global growth slid to 3.3 percent, down 0.4 percentage point from April.

The Federal Reserve's policymakers just eyeballed the economy and saw nothing new.

On Wednesday, they announced that wage and price hikes remain low, and that growth continues at a moderate pace. That means interest rates can stay superlow for a "considerable time," while the Fed's bond-buying program can wrap up next month, as expected.

Need more evidence that the U.S. economy is moving on two tracks? A new Harvard Business School study, released Monday, may confirm your fears.

The report, "An Economy Doing Half Its Job," involved a survey of 1,947 alumni. The Harvard-educated business leaders expressed concerns about U.S. competitiveness in the global marketplace. But they were far more optimistic about the future for U.S. corporations than for that of workers, the survey showed.

If you're on a tight budget, here's a plan for enjoying late summer:

1) Take the family for a sightseeing drive.

2) When you get home, have a beer.

Don't do this:

1) Invite neighbors over for grilled steaks.

2) Make milkshakes for the kids.

Such budget-savvy conclusions can be drawn from the inflation report released Tuesday by the Labor Department.

Pages