Economy

With looming debate over the  federal debt and deficits, a recent government report warns the U.S. could fall over a “fiscal cliff", and quite possibly slip back into recession.  On top of that, job growth has been uninspiring and across the pond, European economies remain shaky.  We’ll look at these new fiscal rumblings…and how we may feel them in New Hampshire.

Guests

When Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman hit Broadway and swept the Tony’s in 1949, it was a middle-class masterpiece – a transformative play that could bring even stoic-factory workers and tough-love fathers to tears. These days, the price of a ticket for the Broadway revival may be as out of reach for the average American family as a pro sports career was for Biff. 

What just happened?

JPMorgan Chase, the biggest bank in America, announced that it lost $2 billion on a massive trade placed out of its London office.

What was the trade?

Welfare changes in the 1990s helped slash cash benefit rolls, yet the use of food stamps is soaring today. About 15 percent of Americans use food stamps. The program has become what some call the new welfare.

A big reason why is a deal struck between President Clinton and the Republican-controlled Congress in 1996. At that time, the number of Americans who received cash payments — what's often thought of as welfare — was at an all-time high.

On the eve of the spring meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the IMF's managing director, Christine Lagarde, says there's a spring wind blowing in a recovery for the world economy.

But, she cautioned, there are still dark clouds on the horizon — a reference to the continued threats posed by Europe's sovereign debt crisis. Lagarde says making sure the IMF has the resources to manage that threat is this meeting's top priority.

Spain Scrambles To Avoid A Financial Bailout

Apr 18, 2012

Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy visited Poland last week and tried to assure international markets that Spain would not join the list of European nations needing a bailout.

"Spain will not be rescued," he said at a news conference. "It's not possible to rescue Spain. There's no intention of it, and we don't need it."

However, Spain's borrowing costs are nearing levels that were followed by bailouts for Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

The House is scheduled to vote this week on a small-business tax cut bill offered up by Republicans. It's just the latest piece of legislation to focus on small businesses, which are widely praised in the political discourse as engines of job creation. The adoration is nearly universal — and it reflects something beyond economic reality.

"Small businesses create 2 out of every 3 jobs in this economy, so our recovery depends on them," President Obama said in 2012 at a New Jersey sandwich shop where he met with small-business owners.

Paul Schubert and his wife decided to buy a new car last summer — a really fuel-efficient one. After a lot of research, they settled on a Toyota Prius. But there was a problem: They couldn't find one.

The tsunami that devastated Japan in March had dried up supplies of the Prius, which is made in Japan, and a dealer told them they would have to wait — "about four months," Schubert says. "And we thought, well, it'd be, probably, end of November, early December before we were going to have a car."

The Schuberts still had a working car.

Politicians and pundits frequently proclaim that they know what drives innovation and economic development. Despite their assurances, the chicken-and-egg question of whether quality education creates thriving economies or flourishing economies create good schools has been cycling around for years. For clues, Jordan Weissman, Associate Editor at the Atlantic, looked not to India’s booming IT industry or China’s cadre of engineers, but to Germany, circa 1386, when a papal schism opened up new opportunities for innovation.

There's a boom in natural gas production in the United States, a boom so big the market is having trouble absorbing it all.

The unusually warm weather this winter is one reason for the excess, since it reduced the need for people to burn gas to heat their homes. A bigger reason, however, is the huge increase in gas production made possible by new methods of coaxing gas out of shale rock formations.

It's beginning to feel frothy in Silicon Valley. Here are a few numbers:

The Central American nation of Panama is booming. Fueled by a multibillion-dollar expansion of the Panama Canal, a thriving banking industry and capital flight from Venezuela, the tiny nation has the highest economic growth rate in the hemisphere.

But even as the government builds a subway system and markets the country as a tropical paradise for multinational corporations, not everyone is sharing in the prosperity.

The turmoil in the housing market over the past few years has scared a lot of people away from homeownership. That means many people who can afford to buy are now renting. With so much demand for apartments, rents are once again on the rise. And in places like New York City, they're near record highs.

A few weeks ago Lauren Weitz got her first apartment in the city. Every night when she gets home from the office, she upholds a New York City tradition.

While the state’s unemployment rate is well below the national average, thousands of people are still searching for a job.

Friday, many of the state’s unemployed showed up for a job fair for a new $100 million shopping center in Merrimack. The retail outlet is expected to create more than 800 positions.

By 7 a.m. Friday morning, hundreds of people lined up outside Nashua Community College for the Merrimack Premium Outlet job fair.

When it opens in mid-June, the outlets will feature 100 clothing, home goods, and other stores. 

The U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote Thursday on what's known as the Ryan budget, the spending plan from Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., that among other things changes the structure of Medicare and rewrites the tax code. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has endorsed the plan, but some are saying his rhetoric on the campaign trail may not match up with at least one reality of the Ryan budget.

Romney said he supported the Ryan budget the day it was unveiled.

"I applaud it," he said. "It's an excellent piece of work, and very much needed."

Can A Small Town Survive Without Its Bank?

Mar 29, 2012

Alburgh, Vt., is a town with unusual geography: It's on a peninsula that borders Quebec and is surrounded by Lake Champlain. Even though the town is small and isolated, its residents have always had somewhere to do their banking.

But in January, the People's United Bank branch on Main Street announced it was closing its doors. When Irene Clarke heard the news, she decided to do something about it.

I met Zenaide Muneton in the offices of the Pavillion Agency in New York, which specializes in hiring house staff for some of the richest folks in the country. Muneton says she knows how to make everything fun for kids, even homework, and that's why she is one of the better paid nannies at the agency. I asked her what that means.

"It means over $150,000 a year," Muneton said.

Housing prices are still declining, but many analysts see some signs for optimism in the housing market. The mild spring has brought buyers out earlier than usual, and real estate agents are busy.

Doug Azarian is one of them. One of his clients recently signed a deal on a $1.5 million house in Cape Cod, Mass. — a contemporary waterfront property with three bedrooms.

"The buyers came in, and they loved it from the minute they walked in the door," Azarian says.

Don’t let the profit margin fool you: dollar stores are one of the fastest growing niche retail markets.  Just this week, the national chain Family Dollar reported much higher than predicted second quarter earnings, with a profit of more than one hundred and thirty six million dollars. I guess all those dollars add up…

But in some communities, dollar stores aren’t welcome additions.  Vermont public radio reporter Steve Zind covered the recent battle over a proposed dollar store in Chester, Vermont, and joins us now to tell us about it.

100 Jobs To Return To NH From China

Mar 27, 2012

A New England-based manufacturer is moving some of its operations from China to New Hampshire–and bringing 100 new jobs with it.  Watts Water Technologies is building up its facilities in Franklin.  As

On Saturday Cash Mobs will take to the streets in hundreds of cities and towns to celebrate National Cash Mob Day: an occasion for shoppers to meet at a designated time and place, then disperse with at least $20 to spend in  local, independent stores.  Allison Grappone is organizing Concord’s cash mob day this Saturday.

Only 7 percent of plastic waste in the United States is recycled each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. A startup company in Niagara Falls says it can increase that amount and reduce the country's dependence on foreign oil at the same time.

It all starts with a machine known as the Plastic-Eating Monster. Thousands of pounds of shredded milk jugs, water bottles and grocery bags tumble into a large tank, where they're melted together and vaporized. This waste comes from landfills and dumps from all over the United States.

The stock market hit some major milestones this week: The Standard & Poor's 500 index reached its highest level in more than three years, the Dow Jones industrial average settled in above 13,000 — up about 24 percent since early October — and the Nasdaq rose to its highest level in 11 years. Still, the Federal Reserve has been warning not to get too excited about where the economy is headed next.

David Kotok, chairman and chief investment officer at Cumberland Advisors, says there are a bunch of reason for stocks to be rising.

Why are some nations rich and others poor? In a new book called Why Nations Fail, a pair of economists argue that a lot comes down to politics.

To research the book, the authors scoured the world for populations and geographic areas that are identical in all respects save one: they're on different sides of a border.

Part of a series

As 2011 was winding down, consumer spirits were starting to rise. Now the momentum has carried into the new year, with polls showing consumer sentiment continuing to improve.

Economists say that negative factors, such as falling home values or rising meat prices, are nowhere near as important as the growth in jobs.

Part of a series

Detroit automakers are creating thousands of new jobs amid a sales boom. And as they expand, their suppliers are racing to keep up, adding tens of thousands of new jobs.

At Bridgewater Interiors in Warren, Mich., for example, the pace is intense. Hundreds of union employees scurry to fill a growing list of orders. The factory floor is packed with stacks of foam cushions, seat covers and headrests.

Part of a series

During the worst of the Great Recession, U.S. factory jobs were disappearing at a furious pace. As 2007 began, about 14 million Americans were working in manufacturing.

Three years and one frightful recession later, only 11.5 million were.

But since 2010, employment has been ticking back up, with companies adding about 400,000 jobs.

Part of a series

Economists say many industries are looking up this year. But perhaps none has a better outlook than the energy sector.

New drilling technologies and rising fuel prices have generated a boom in drilling — and lots of high-paying jobs for people with the skills to work in the oil patch. On some college campuses, companies are so eager to find petroleum engineers that they are offering jobs to students even before they have graduated.

Meet Willow Tufano, age 14: Lady Gaga fan, animal lover, landlord.

In 2005, when Willow was 7, the housing market was booming. Home prices in some Florida neighborhoods nearly doubled from one month to the next. Her family moved into a big house; her mom became a real estate agent.

But as Willow moved from childhood to adolescence, the market turned, and the neighborhood emptied out. "Everyone is getting foreclosed on here," she says.

Photo by Charles McCain via Flickr Creative Commons

Remember the so-called Man-cession? That was the gloomy prophesy made early in the global economic downturn when construction, manufacturing, and other male-dominated industries collapsed. Some, including Hanna Rosin speaking on this program, projected a sign of sea change in America’s gender inequality. A 2010 study showing unmarried, childless, urban female workers earning more than their male counterparts reinforced the possibility that women could dominate in the new economy. 

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