Scott Horsley | WYPR

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.

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.

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.

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.

The wealthiest American households are keeping a tight grip on their purse strings even as their lower-income counterparts are spending a lot more freely when they emerge from weeks of lockdown. That decline in spending by the wealthy could limit the whole country's economic recovery.

Researchers based at Harvard have been tracking spending patterns using credit card data. They found that people at the bottom of the income ladder are now spending nearly as much as they did before the coronavirus pandemic.

Lainy Morse is an essential worker who has been out of work since the middle of March.

She teaches preschool and ordinarily provides a vital service for working parents.

"Without us, moms [mostly] can't go back to work," Morse says.

Our national fascination with sourdough starter appears to have stopped. Or at least slowed down a bit.

The price of baking flour fell last month along with the price of eggs, suggesting that the baking craze that gripped hungry and housebound consumers in the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic has cooled.

Updated at 4:12 p.m. ET

The Federal Reserve left interest rates near zero Wednesday and once again promised to deliver whatever monetary medicine it can to an economy that's badly ailing from the coronavirus pandemic.

"The Federal Reserve is committed to using its full range of tools to support the U.S. economy in this challenging time," the central bank said in a statement.

It may seem obvious, with double-digit unemployment and plunging economic output. But if there was any remaining doubt that the U.S. is in a recession, it's now been removed by the official scorekeepers at the National Bureau of Economic Research.

The bureau's Business Cycle Dating Committee — the fat lady of economic opera — said the expansion peaked in February after a record 128 months, and we've been sliding into a pandemic-driven recession since.

Updated at 4:13 p.m. ET

The U.S economy rebounded with surprising strength last month as businesses began to reopen from the coronavirus lockdown. U.S. employers added 2.5 million jobs in May, and the unemployment rate fell to 13.3%.

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Updated at 8:47 a.m. ET

The coronavirus pandemic has pushed unemployment to its highest level since the Great Depression, but the pace of layoffs has been easing. And there are now some signs that the job market could slowly start to recover.

The Labor Department says another 1.87 million people filed claims for unemployment insurance last week. That's down 249,000 from the previous week. While still very high by historical standards, the number has been declining steadily from a peak of 6.8 million the week ending March 28.

Updated at 10:36 a.m. ET Wednesday

The death of a black man at the hands of a white police officer has sparked days of civil unrest in the United States. Those sparks have landed in a tinderbox assembled over decades of economic inequality, now made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.

President Trump is warning of possible sanctions this week against China over its treatment of Hong Kong. It's the latest source of friction in what's become an increasingly tense relationship between the world's two biggest economies.

Preschool teacher Lainy Morse has been out of work for more than two months. But the Portland, Ore., child care center where she worked is considering a reopening. Morse says she is dreading the idea, as much as she loves the infants and toddlers for which she cared.

"They always have snotty faces. It's just one cold after another," she says. "It feels just like an epicenter for spreading disease. And it feels really scary to go back to that."

The United States is still losing jobs at an alarming pace two months after the coronavirus pandemic took hold.

Another 2.4 million people filed claims for unemployment last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday. That's down 249,000 — or 9% — from the previous week, but still painfully high by historical standards.

In the past nine weeks, jobless claims have totaled 38.6 million. That's roughly one out of every four people who were working in February, before the pandemic hit.

Members of the Senate Banking Committee squabbled Tuesday over how quickly the U.S. economy can rebound from the coronavirus shutdown and whether the federal government is doing enough to support struggling families and businesses in the meantime.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell warns it could be another year and a half before the U.S. recovers from the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. But he says this will not be another Great Depression.

"It's going to be a very sharp downturn," Powell said in an interview with 60 Minutes that aired Sunday. "It should be a much shorter downturn than you would associate with the 1930s."

With the U.S. economy in free-fall, a lot of forecasters have been digging deep into the history books, looking for a guideposts of what to expect. Often, they've turned to the chapter on the 1930s.

"Clearly people have made comparisons to the Great Depression," said former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

"It's not a very good comparison," he cautioned.

Additional government spending may be necessary to avoid long-lasting fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said Wednesday.

Powell said the economy should recover once the virus is under control. But he cautioned that without more help, many small businesses may not survive that long. And he warned that a wave of business and household bankruptcies could do lasting damage to the nation's economic output.

Updated at 10:32 a.m. ET

Food prices have jumped the most since 1974, when double-digit inflation became a national concern. But inflation isn't a worry this time as prices for just about everything else are diving.

New inflation numbers out Tuesday from the Labor Department offer a window on how consumers are coping in the COVID-19 era. And the bottom line is that we're snacking more — and paying more for a lot of food — as we shop more at our local grocery stores.

David Edwards thought he'd be spending this baseball season prowling the ballpark in Davenport, Iowa, trading high-fives and cheering the home team.

After all, it would be his second season playing mascot for the Quad Cities River Bandits.

"I am the big raccoon," Edwards says. "It's the most fun I've ever had."

Updated at 11:43 a.m. ET

The Labor Department delivered a historically bad employment report Friday, showing 20.5 million jobs lost last month as the nation locked down against the coronavirus. The jobless rate soared to 14.7% — the highest level since the Great Depression.

The highest monthly job loss before this was 2 million in 1945, as the nation began to demobilize after World War II. The worst monthly job loss during the Great Recession was 800,000 in March 2009.

The Labor Department is expected to deliver a historically bad employment report Friday, showing millions of jobs lost last month as the jobless rate soared to around 16% — the highest level since the Great Depression.

Carolyn Mendel oversees a team of about 1,000 people at a frozen food factory in Wellston, Ohio. And as demand for frozen pizzas has soared, the factory has been running nonstop.

"We like to consider ourselves the home of Totino's Pizza and Pizza Rolls," she says. "We have seen a lot of feedback from our consumers that the Totino's line is getting them through quarantine."

Mendel has been in manufacturing for 25 years and with General Mills for the last 15. Rarely has she felt her work is more important than during the past several weeks.

When is it safe for people to go back to work?

That's the question both employers and workers are asking, as businesses around the country start to open doors shuttered by the coronavirus.

Workers want assurances they aren't putting themselves at risk. And employers want to know they won't be sued if workers get sick.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., says liability protection for employers must be included in the next round of pandemic relief legislation.

Jose de los Rios has worked at a Procter & Gamble toilet paper factory for almost three decades. And he's never been busier.

"We're making more Charmin and more Bounty [paper towels] than we've ever made before," de los Rios says. "We just hope that our consumers know that we are doing everything we can to keep it in the stores."

De los Rios gets a lot of ribbing about his job in Mehoopany, Pa., these days, as he walks around his neighborhood or goes jogging on a nearby trail.

The U.S. Treasury Department plans to borrow nearly $3 trillion between April and June to bankroll the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic.

It's an unprecedented level of deficit financing to match the historic economic hit caused by the virus. In a single quarter, the government will borrow more than twice as much as it did all of last year.

As more businesses start to reopen and people go back to work, some companies are looking for advice on how to keep employees safe from the coronavirus.

So far, the federal government hasn't been much help.

"It's the Wild West out there," said Geoff Freeman, president of the Consumer Brands Association, which represents grocery manufacturers. "The federal government, particularly CDC and OSHA, is failing to provide the clear and specific guidance necessary to encourage relatively consistent adoption across the country."

Updated at 8:38 a.m. ET

The telephone lines are still jammed at the nation's unemployment offices.

Another 3.8 million people filed claims for jobless benefits last week, according to the Labor Department. While that's down from the previous week's 4.4 million, a staggering 30.3 million have applied for unemployment in the six weeks since the coronavirus began taking a wrecking ball to the U.S. job market.

That's roughly one out of five people who had a job in February.

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