National News

'Oh, Hello,' Says Andrew, As He Suddenly Grabs You By The Leg Or Neck

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-03 08:55

There it is: a wild animal, lurking. Here's Andrew, darting so fast, using his bare hands — and bingo! Suddenly, he's holding the animal. He doesn't use weapons — just his lightning-quick reflexes.

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Questioning the reliability of ADP job numbers

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-04-03 08:51
Thursday, April 3, 2014 - 16:47 John Moore/Getty Images

A job applicant and a potential employer shake hands at the 'Denver Hires Job Fair' in Denver, Colorado.

The government will tell us Friday how many jobs were created in March, but a payroll processing company called ADP puts out its own jobs numbers every month, a few days ahead of the government. 

Lately, those numbers have been  off, and economists have been upset. But ADP defends its numbers. “Every month we’re a little above or below, but on average we’re almost right on,” says  Sophia Koropeckyj, an economist at Moody's, which works with ADP to come up with the jobs numbers.

Koropeckyj acknowledges that they’ve tinkered with the formula used to come up with the ADP jobs number, adding information from the Philadelphia Federal Reserve. But she says, there are millions of jobs in this country, and their figure may be off by tens of thousands.

Here are their numbers for this month, via Jeoff Hall at Thomson Reuters:

Avg absolute miss between initial ADP and initial BLS estimates of private payrolls down 33% since methodology change pic.twitter.com/kT1dBiAugU

— Jeoff Hall (@JeoffHall) April 2, 2014

Marketplace for Thursday April 3, 2014by Nancy Marshall-GenzerPodcast Title: Questioning the reliability of ADP job numbersStory Type: News StorySyndication: SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond: No

What we're looking for in the jobs report

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-04-03 08:37
Thursday, April 3, 2014 - 12:32 Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Jobs fair.

At 8:30 a.m. Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will release the nation’s economic vital signs, just as it does every first Friday of the month.  

A couple things to look for:

Was it the weather after all? December and January weren’t so hot... neither in temperature nor in jobs. Whereas in November we added 274,000 jobs, in December we added 84,000. February wasn’t great either at 129,000. 

Many economists lay equal parts blame and hope at the feet of the cold weather. Having warmed up since January, we might expect to see a bounce upward in total non-farm payroll. If we don’t, there will be more reason to think that it wasn’t really the weather, but rather that our economy is sicklier than we’d imagined.

How close will we inch to the pre-recession jobs peak? It’s a target that looms in the distance of every jobs report these days. The pre-recession peak for total non-farm payroll employment was 138.365 million people (seasonally adjusted) back in January of 2008. In February of 2014, we were tentatively at 137.699 million people (seasonally adjusted) with fulltime jobs. So we have 666,000 more to go. We aren’t going to get that tomorrow, but it’s conceivable we might in three months or so. Something to think about.  

I can’t go without saying, though, that the pre-recession jobs peak is a misleading reference point.

We shouldn’t be happy with the level of employment back in 2007 – because we’ve had lots of new people join the workforce. The Hamilton Project (affiliated with the Brookings Institute) keeps track of the “jobs gap,” which is the number of jobs that the U.S. economy needs to create in order to return to pre-recession employment levels while also absorbing the people who enter the labor force each month.

The date when they'll really catch up? The estimate is 2020.

by Sabri Ben-AchourStory Type: News StorySyndication: PMPApp Respond: No

Going beyond GDP to measure economic health

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-04-03 08:14

When it comes to measuring the health of a country's economy, using the nation's Gross Domestic Product is often the barometer of choice. But as more dollars change hands, why aren't the outcomes always better?

There's a new listing of 132 countries out today that uses 54 different indicators that together measure how well a country is doing in giving its citizens good lives. It's called the Social Progress Index. Michael Green, CEO of the Social Progress Imperative, says that although GDP is important, it doesn't tell the whole story. He joins Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio to discuss the report. 

Court In Turkey Orders Twitter Service Restored

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-03 07:29

The social media site was blocked in the runup to last Sunday's local elections, but the ban was deemed a breach of free expression and ordered reversed.

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'Hot' Oregon Blueberry Fight Prompts Farm Bill Changes

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-03 07:15

A dispute between Beaver State blueberry farmers and workers spurred Congress to change an obscure provision in a 1938 labor law. Some fear it will delay pickers' paychecks.

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PODCAST: Fewest first quarter layoffs since 1995

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-04-03 06:43

American companies announced fewer layoffs January to March than in any first quarter since 1995. Might that be a hint of good things to come in the month's big employment report that's on the way? We consult Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial in Chicago.

Also, when it comes to measuring the health of a country's economy, using the nation's Gross Domestic Product is often the barometer of choice. But as more dollars change hands, why aren't the outcomes always better? There's a new listing of 132 countries that uses 54 different indicators that together measure how well a country is doing in giving its citizens good lives. It's called the Social Progress Index. Michael Green, CEO of the Social Progress Imperative, says that although GDP is important, it doesn't tell the whole story.

Thousands Of Artifacts Seized At 91-Year-Old Indiana Man's Home

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-03 06:20

The collection of items has "immeasurable" cultural value, the FBI says. Some artifacts are Native American; others are Russian and Chinese. It's unclear how many were collected legally.

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VIDEO: What if Wal-Mart paid its employees more?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-04-03 05:57

Food stamps turns 50 this year. Since the program was written in to law, it's become one of those government programs that gets a lot of attention from politicians on both the left and the right -- especially recently. 

The program has been growing furiously in the past 15 years. In fact, one in seven Americans is on food stamps today. That's more than twice what the rate was in 2000. Some of that can be explained by changing eligibility requirements and job-losses during the recession. But the fastest growing group of food stamp participants in the last few decades are people who have jobs and work full year-round.

In our series on The Secret Life of a Food Stamp, Marketplace Wealth & Poverty Desk reporter Krissy Clark reports on how big retail chains that employ these workers also themselves take in tens of billions of dollars in food stamps.

In this video, produced by our series partner Slate, we estimate how much more Wal-Mart might have to charge for some products, if it raised wages high enough that a typical worker earned too much to qualify for food stamps.

Note: Eligibility for food stamps varies according to income, number of dependents and other factors. This estimate of Walmart's potential cost from raising wages is based on wages for a Walmart employee with one dependent working 30 hours a week, a typical retail worker based on federal data.

VIDEO: What if Wal-Mart paid its employees more?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-04-03 05:57

Food stamps turns 50 this year. Since the program was written in to law, it's become one of those government programs that gets a lot of attention from politicians on both the left and the right -- especially recently. 

The program has been growing furiously in the past 15 years. In fact, one in seven Americans is on food stamps today. That's more than twice what the rate was in 2000. Some of that can be explained by changing eligibility requirements and job-losses during the recession. But the fastest growing group of food stamp participants in the last few decades are people who have jobs and work full year-round.

In our series on The Secret Life of a Food Stamp, Marketplace Wealth & Poverty Desk reporter Krissy Clark reports on how big retail chains that employ these workers also themselves take in tens of billions of dollars in food stamps.

In this video, produced by our series partner Slate, we estimate how much more Wal-Mart might have to charge for some products, if it raised wages high enough that a typical worker earned too much to qualify for food stamps.

Note: Eligibility for food stamps varies according to income, number of dependents and other factors. This estimate of Walmart's potential cost from raising wages is based on wages for a Walmart employee with one dependent working 30 hours a week, a typical retail worker based on federal data.

Jobless Claims Rose Last Week

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-03 04:44

The uptick to 326,000 applications still kept claims near the lower end of a range they've been in for the past year or so. On Friday, the government will report on the March unemployment rate.

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Nearly Half Of Californians Who Used Exchange May Drop Coverage

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-03 04:41

Over the next year, many of the more than 1.2 million people who used the Covered California exchange to buy health insurance are expected to switch to job-based plans or Medicaid.

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Early Evidence: Fort Hood Gunman Showed No Warning Signs

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-03 04:02

The soldier who has been identified as the man who killed three people and wounded 16 before apparently taking his own life Wednesday was an Army truck driver who was being treated for depression.

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'Empathy Exams' Is A Virtuosic Manifesto Of Human Pain

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-03 03:03

Leslie Jamison's new book of essays, The Empathy Exams, combines the intellectual and the emotional to explore the humanizing effect of empathy. Heller McAlpin calls it a "soaring performance."

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'We Do Not Expect Any More Fatalities,' Doctor Says Of Fort Hood Victims

NPR News - Thu, 2014-04-03 03:00

Also: Secretary of the Army says background checks on the soldier who killed at least three people and wounded 16 before taking his own life showed "no involvement with extremist organizations."

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Coinstar goes after the gift-card resale market

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-04-03 02:53

Coinstar is getting deeper into the gift-card market, expanding on its line of new machines that let consumers exchange their unused gift cards—loaded with value—for instant cash.

David Robertson of financial newsletter ‘The Nilson Report’ tells the story of a typical gift card: “Just like you’d get a gift in the old days from Aunt Myrtle of socks that you didn’t want, now you’re getting a prepaid card from Aunt Myrtle to a store you didn’t want to purchase from.”

Now, imagine Aunt Myrtle’s nephew, Spike. He just got a $100 gift card—for J.C. Penney, where he’s not going to shop. So he sells it at the Coinstar Exchange kiosk for the company’s offer of $70. Coinstar unloads it to a partner company—Blackhawk—that markets the card online at CardPool.com. Another consumer buys it for $90. A $20 profit is left over, to be split by Coinstar and Blackhawk.

 

Shea Huffman/Marketplace

 

Coinstar Exchange General Manager Jeff Dirks says the company (a subsidiary of Bellevue, Washington-based Outerwall) sees promise in this business, and is expanding its footprint in several Western States from 400 to approximately 650 in-store machines over the next few months to test the market further.

Dirks says a lot of gift cards are never used. Coinstar is giving card-holders a convenient way to sell unwanted cards, and likely get most of the value back. He says many spend the money in the store where the Coinstar Exchange kiosk is located.

Consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow at Golden Gate University thinks this could help consumers burdened by gift cards.

“If you’re trying to get rid of a gift card, everything in the store is an option, and consumers find that to be sort of a freak out,” says Yarrow. “They almost feel pressure to buy.”

Then, she says, they often spend even more than the gift card is worth—and more than they meant to spend—out of pocket.

Coinstar goes after the gift-card resale market

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-04-03 02:53

Coinstar is getting deeper into the gift-card market, expanding on its line of new machines that let consumers exchange their unused gift cards—loaded with value—for instant cash.

David Robertson of financial newsletter ‘The Nilson Report’ tells the story of a typical gift card: “Just like you’d get a gift in the old days from Aunt Myrtle of socks that you didn’t want, now you’re getting a prepaid card from Aunt Myrtle to a store you didn’t want to purchase from.”

Now, imagine Aunt Myrtle’s nephew, Spike. He just got a $100 gift card—for J.C. Penney, where he’s not going to shop. So he sells it at the Coinstar Exchange kiosk for the company’s offer of $70. Coinstar unloads it to a partner company—Blackhawk—that markets the card online at CardPool.com. Another consumer buys it for $90. A $20 profit is left over, to be split by Coinstar and Blackhawk.

 

Shea Huffman/Marketplace

 

Coinstar Exchange General Manager Jeff Dirks says the company (a subsidiary of Bellevue, Washington-based Outerwall) sees promise in this business, and is expanding its footprint in several Western States from 400 to approximately 650 in-store machines over the next few months to test the market further.

Dirks says a lot of gift cards are never used. Coinstar is giving card-holders a convenient way to sell unwanted cards, and likely get most of the value back. He says many spend the money in the store where the Coinstar Exchange kiosk is located.

Consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow at Golden Gate University thinks this could help consumers burdened by gift cards.

“If you’re trying to get rid of a gift card, everything in the store is an option, and consumers find that to be sort of a freak out,” says Yarrow. “They almost feel pressure to buy.”

Then, she says, they often spend even more than the gift card is worth—and more than they meant to spend—out of pocket.

Saving Medicaid money in Camden, N.J.

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-04-03 02:24

Around the country, hospitals and doctors are teaming up to better manage patients. They're trying to strip away wasteful practices like redundant testing. They’re doing so with what are known as accountable care organizations, or ACOs, and one in Camden, N.J., is drawing attention.

The name may be jargon, but Mark Humowiecki with the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers says the concept of an ACO is pretty basic: “Spend more money on primary care in order to keep people out of the hospitals.

Under the ACO model in Camden, insurers give the hospitals and doctors a chunk of money to care for the some 32,000 Medicaid patients in the city. The idea is to make it very easy to get primary care, and avoid unnecessary hospitalizations and ER visits.

If it works, the savings could be immense.

“We think we could save anywhere from 5 to 10 percent of spending,” says Humowiecki. “That’s millions of dollars a year.”

The challenge, says Brookings Institution’s Mark McClellan, is that Medicaid patients often struggle. 

“They may not have regular homes, they may have trouble getting their medications, they may have other stresses in their lives,” McClellan says. “And that is hard work to do.”

As one of about a dozen Medicaid ACOs, Camden is on the front line of the front lines of health reform, says McClellan.

And people are watching. If it works here, Camden becomes a national model.

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