The U.S. unemployment rate has fallen to 7 percent, its lowest point in 5 years. Employees added 203,000 jobs to payrolls in November, a bit better than economists' predictions of 180,000. But Julia Coronado, chief economist, North America for BNP Paribas in New York, says that like a lot of good economic news lately, this one comes with an asterisk.
"You need to be careful here. The government shutdown impacted the numbers. There's been a lot of volatility," Coronado says. "If we smooth over the last few months, the picture is still one of the labor force is declining. The participation rate has been dropping quite rapidly, and that combined with decent job gains is driving a fairly rapid decline in the unemployment rate."
But while many different kinds of employers are adding jobs on paper, out in the real world, searching for a job is still tough for too many Americans. Maureen Cunningham is one of them. The 51-year-old recently moved to Venice, Florida from Philadelphia with her retired husband. She was working for a company from home until October, when her employer eliminated her position. So far, Cunningham is having a difficult time finding a replacement.
"I'm finding that the wages here are quite a bit less than what I currently make, so I'm thinking I might need to go into something else," Cunningham says.
While Cunningham says her husband is happy to have her at home with him all day "making pancakes," she says being out of work is taking a psychological toll on her.
"I feel like I need to work," she says. "It gives me a sense of fulfillment to have a job, have a place to go to and be at. I don't do well when I don't have a job, so it's a little bit depressing."
Also of concern to Cunningham is how she will deal with health insurance. Since she was insured through her previous employer, Cunningham says she hasn't paid much attention to recent news about how to sign up for the Affordable Care Act, and now she's playing catch up.
"Now, all the sudden, I'm in a panic, and I'm trying to figure out what my options are and what I should do. And I guess my hope is I'll find something right away and won't have to worry about it. As it is, I'm in a high deductible plan, so getting sick wasn't an option either. But to have nothing and have to find something, I just don't know. It's scary."
NPR's Gregory Warner speaks with Renee Montagne about the scene near the family home of Nelson Mandela in Soweto, South Africa, where people are gathered to mourn the former president's life.
The death of Nelson Mandela is being mourned around the world -- including university campuses where students, faculty and staff fought the apartheid in South Africa through disinvestment. In 1982, the University of Maine became one of the first 10 universities in the country to completely divest from country. Philosophy professor Douglas Allen was one of those people who ultimately convinced the board of trustees to pull its $1.9 million from South Africa.
“It was a difficult argument, and it took years of work, research, providing all the documentation, lobbying,” he says.
Click the above audio player to hear more from Douglas Allen about university divestment efforts amid the anti-apartheid movement.
Politics in Minnesota and Wisconsin historically have been pretty similar, but that's no longer the case. Wisconsin is now advancing conservative policies and lending a Midwestern face to the Republican Party, while Minnesota's agenda has been among the most liberal.
Renee Montagne talks to South African musician Johnny Clegg about his relationship with Nelson Mandela, who died Thursday at age 95. Clegg says his banned 1980s song that named Mandela and became an anthem came to him one day when he woke to gunshots and wondered "who can bridge you and me, every South African."
For the first time the federal government has tallied up the arts and culture contribution to the nation’s economy. It turns out that sector, movies, painting, publishing, cable and more, was worth half a trillion dollars -- 3 percent to the gross domestic product in 2011. That’s more than the travel and tourism industry.
“Here you have for the first time, comprehensive empirical evidence from the point of view of economists that the arts play a substantial role in the nation’s economy,” says Sunil Iyengar who runs the Office of Research and Analysis for the National Endowment for the Arts.
In an instant, writers, app designers, publishers and painters just got a bunch of "street cred." Nearly two million people work in the arts and culture industry which exported about $40 billion in goods and services in 2011. Some economists say ideas, innovation, and creativity are essential to growing the United States economy.
University of Minnesota culture economist Ann Markusen says putting a dollar value to the sector could lead to policies that promote it. “The recognition of the significance of art skills, is going to really be a big boost for artists and also for encouraging young people to go into the arts,” she says.
Who knows, maybe that whole starving artist thing will finally be on its way out.
Food as a symbol of politics, diet, gender roles, technology, isolation, gluttony and blatant commercialism has been with us for ages and in many forms. A massive exhibit explores how American artists, from Pilgrim times to Andy Warhol, used paintings of food to shape and reflect our national identity.
There are two speeches delivered by the late Nelson Mandela that changed the course of history and cemented his legacy as one of the most revered leaders of our time.
The unemployment rate fell to 7 percent and employers added 203,000 jobs to payrolls in November, according to the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The largely positive data could build anticipation that the Federal Reserve might move to taper its stimulus program.