Marketplace - American Public Media

Syndicate content
Updated: 10 min 50 sec ago

Forget the wearables: This week's Silicon Tally

Thu, 2014-04-03 15:17
Friday, April 4, 2014 - 02:13 Andrew Burton/ Getty Images

Amazon's vice president of Kindle, Peter Larsen, displays the Amazon Fire TV, a new device that allows users to stream video, music, photos, games and more through their television, on April 2, 2014 in New York City. 

In this week's edition of Silicon Tally, the numbers we're discussing involve set-top boxes, billions in loose change and just how many of us actually wear wearables. Will Oremus, tech blogger for Slate, runs the following numbers:

$70 billion

The amount Americans spent on gift cards last year. (Marketplace)

1/3

The percentage of wearable computer consumers that end up abandoning their devices after six months of their purchase. (Guardian)

$99

The price of Amazon's new set-top box, the Fire TV. (USA Today)

$650,000

The amount of non-work related expenses claimed in 2013 by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for travel on the company's private jet. (Business Insider)

Marketplace Tech for Friday, April 4, 2014 by Ben JohnsonPodcast Title: Forget the wearables: This week's Silicon TallyStory Type: InterviewSyndication: SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond: No

Food stamps: A reporter's notebook

Thu, 2014-04-03 14:41
Thursday, April 3, 2014 - 16:42 Krissy Clark/Marketplace

A sign at Wal-Mart Corporate headquarters in Arkansas.

David Gura: Your story has generated a lot of listener response. One comment that came in pretty early on is 'Should we be shocked by this—by the way the system works?'

Krissy Clark: Yeah, and my point isn’t at all to decide if you or any of the listeners should be shocked by this. My point is just to say, ‘Hey, let’s look at what is really going on,’ in terms of how food stamps function as a part of our economic system, in all of these different ways. And maybe that will help us have more informed conversations about like things like food stamp funding, about debates around the minimum wage. Let’s just look at it and all get on the same page about it.

Gura: Your stories focus a lot on Walmart—why?

Clark: Walmart is kind of hard to avoid when you’re talking about things like food stamps and wages, just because they are so big. They are the largest employer in America. They are the largest recipient of food stamp dollars. And they are the largest retailer, full stop, in America. And because they’ve been such a successful company, they’ve really set the tone in a lot of ways for the competition. And I want to give Walmart a lot of credit for being very open to talk about this stuff. They invited me down to their headquarters in Arkansas, they really engaged in the issue. Other retailers that we reached out to—they all declined to be interviewed for this story. 

But I also think that the role Walmart plays in the economy, especially for low income families, is a really interesting one. And it’s kind of encapsulated in this phrase I kept hearing at Walmart headquarters. “EDLC leads to EDLP” [Every Day Low Costs leads to Every Day Low Prices]... I think it gets to the heart of the paradoxes of the food stamp economy in America in a lot of ways.

Krissy Clark/Marketplace

A sign on the wall at Wal-mart headquarters.

Gura: Explain….

Clark: I was at Walmart headquarters in Arkansas, at the visitor center there. And all of the floor tiles in the visitor center, which was actually one of the first stores that Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, opened—all of the tiles were mismatched. The colors were off. And Alan Dranow, who oversees the visitor center, pointed them out to me, and explained that they were mismatched because Sam Walton got a good deal on the tiles from the contractor. He told me, “I point to that as a very first example of EDLC, which is Every Day Low Cost, which is how we get to EDLP, which is Every Day Low Prices, which is our pricing strategy.”

...I heard it multiple times when I was at the headquarters... And you can look at the equation in two different ways. When I talked to Karrie Denniston of the Walmart Foundation, she sees this as one of the key ways that Walmart helps low income Americans.

She told me “One of the greatest assets that we provide to local communities is often being there, being a grocer that can bring safe, affordable nutritious products in to areas that may not even have had access to them before.”

But of course remember that equation: "EDLC = EDLP." To get to those everyday low prices, you need everyday low costs, and one of those costs is the cost of labor.

Gura: Some people have argued—and indeed we’ve seen them argue this on the comment section on the website—that Walmart could just raise wages, and I wonder why they haven’t done that—why they’ve decided not to?

Clark: Well, Walmart is a business. They have reasons why they think their approach is the best thing for their bottom line, and their share holders. And then there are questions about well, if you raised wages would that increase prices, and by how much? And then would that hurt low-income Americans in a different way? 

There’s also this other point that an economist at UC-Irvine named David Neumark brings up: 

“I wish they were more skilled and were worth more in the labor market, but assuming that’s not going to happen in the near future, I’d certainly rather they get those benefits than not get them,” Neumark said of food stamps going to low-wage workers. “And, I don’t personally as an economist, have a strong feeling about somehow there’s a moral obligation for workers to earn from their work, or for employers to make sure they earn that from their work.”

He says it’s not like food stamps are making Walmart and other companies pay low wages. Even if food stamps didn’t exist, they might pay low wages. And so if low wages are part of the service economy right now, and this is the economy we have -- maybe food stamps coming in to make up the difference is a good system for low wage workers.

Gura: So he’s talking about the near future and the economy we have right now—where does that leave us? Are things going to change? How would they change?

Clark: The one thing everybody I talked to from Walmart to the low-paid workers who are on food stamps said is, ‘We would love a world in which the food stamp program did not need to exist’-- especially for people who are able-bodied and who are working. But the question is how do we get there? How could we kick start the economy so that businesses aren’t even necessarily getting pressured in to raising their wages higher, but that they need to because there are a lot of people with a lot of skills who can demand a lot for the work they’re doing?

Marketplace reporter Krissy Clark talking with volunteers at a Foodbank in Ohio.

Interview by David Gura and Krissy ClarkPodcast Title: Food stamps: A reporter's notebookStory Type: InterviewSyndication: SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond: No

Mozilla CEO resigns amid controversy

Thu, 2014-04-03 14:16
Friday, April 4, 2014 - 03:11 Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

Firefox, the popular open source web browser owned by Mozilla.

After only 11 days on the job, Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich resigned on Thursday. Controversy arose earlier this week when it was discovered that Eich had contributed to the 2008 campaign to ban same-sex marriage in California. Eich initially defended his position on same-sex marriage, arguing it would not affect his leadership role at the company. 

Many Mozilla employees began to voice concerns their new CEO was not fit to head what is seen as a progressive company. And dating website OKcupid earlier this week asked Firefox users to stop supporting Mozilla because of its CEO's politics. 

"In the past couple of days, there's been mounting pressure from people all over the Mozilla community urging him to resign," said Casey Newton, who has been reporting on this for The Verge. "The argument they're making is that he can't be an effective leader when his values opposing same sex marriage oppose those of Mozilla as an organization."

Eich does stand out from a tech community that largely supports gay rights. Jeff Bezos donated heavily to a 2012 campaign in Washington to approve same-sex marriage. However, Newton added that Mozilla as a company stands out from the tech company for another reason as well.

"Mozilla is a really unusual case because it has this policy of openness. And it actually encouraged its employees to get on the Internet, to write blog posts, to tweet about how they felt. So you had this extraordinarily public discussion that would be unimaginable in almost any other company," said Newton.

Marketplace Tech for Friday, April 4, 2014Interviewed By Ben JohnsonPodcast Title: Mozilla CEO resigns amid controversyStory Type: InterviewSyndication: SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond: No

Questioning the reliability of ADP job numbers

Thu, 2014-04-03 13:47

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

Food stamps: A reporter's notebook

Thu, 2014-04-03 13:42

David Gura: Your story has generated a lot of listener response. One comment that came in pretty early on is 'Should we be shocked by this—by the way the system works?'

Krissy Clark: Yeah, and my point isn’t at all to decide if you or any of the listeners should be shocked by this. My point is just to say, ‘Hey, let’s look at what is really going on,’ in terms of how food stamps function as a part of our economic system, in all of these different ways. And maybe that will help us have more informed conversations about like things like food stamp funding, about debates around the minimum wage. Let’s just look at it and all get on the same page about it.

Gura: Your stories focus a lot on Walmart—why?

Clark: Walmart is kind of hard to avoid when you’re talking about things like food stamps and wages, just because they are so big. They are the largest employer in America. They are the largest recipient of food stamp dollars. And they are the largest retailer, full stop, in America. And because they’ve been such a successful company, they’ve really set the tone in a lot of ways for the competition. And I want to give Walmart a lot of credit for being very open to talk about this stuff. They invited me down to their headquarters in Arkansas, they really engaged in the issue. Other retailers that we reached out to—they all declined to be interviewed for this story. 

But I also think that the role Walmart plays in the economy, especially for low income families, is a really interesting one. And it’s kind of encapsulated in this phrase I kept hearing at Walmart headquarters. “EDLC leads to EDLP” [Every Day Low Costs leads to Every Day Low Prices]... I think it gets to the heart of the paradoxes of the food stamp economy in America in a lot of ways.

Krissy Clark/Marketplace

A sign on the wall at Wal-mart headquarters.

Gura: Explain….

Clark: I was at Walmart headquarters in Arkansas, at the visitor center there. And all of the floor tiles in the visitor center, which was actually one of the first stores that Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, opened—all of the tiles were mismatched. The colors were off. And Alan Dranow, who oversees the visitor center, pointed them out to me, and explained that they were mismatched because Sam Walton got a good deal on the tiles from the contractor. He told me, “I point to that as a very first example of EDLC, which is Every Day Low Cost, which is how we get to EDLP, which is Every Day Low Prices, which is our pricing strategy.”

...I heard it multiple times when I was at the headquarters... And you can look at the equation in two different ways. When I talked to Karrie Denniston of the Walmart Foundation, she sees this as one of the key ways that Walmart helps low income Americans.

She told me “One of the greatest assets that we provide to local communities is often being there, being a grocer that can bring safe, affordable nutritious products in to areas that may not even have had access to them before.”

But of course remember that equation: "EDLC = EDLP." To get to those everyday low prices, you need everyday low costs, and one of those costs is the cost of labor.

Gura: Some people have argued—and indeed we’ve seen them argue this on the comment section on the website—that Walmart could just raise wages, and I wonder why they haven’t done that—why they’ve decided not to?

Clark: Well, Walmart is a business. They have reasons why they think their approach is the best thing for their bottom line, and their share holders. And then there are questions about well, if you raised wages would that increase prices, and by how much? And then would that hurt low-income Americans in a different way? 

There’s also this other point that an economist at UC-Irvine named David Neumark brings up: 

“I wish they were more skilled and were worth more in the labor market, but assuming that’s not going to happen in the near future, I’d certainly rather they get those benefits than not get them,” Neumark said of food stamps going to low-wage workers. “And, I don’t personally as an economist, have a strong feeling about somehow there’s a moral obligation for workers to earn from their work, or for employers to make sure they earn that from their work.”

He says it’s not like food stamps are making Walmart and other companies pay low wages. Even if food stamps didn’t exist, they might pay low wages. And so if low wages are part of the service economy right now, and this is the economy we have -- maybe food stamps coming in to make up the difference is a good system for low wage workers.

Gura: So he’s talking about the near future and the economy we have right now—where does that leave us? Are things going to change? How would they change?

Clark: The one thing everybody I talked to from Walmart to the low-paid workers who are on food stamps said is, ‘We would love a world in which the food stamp program did not need to exist’-- especially for people who are able-bodied and who are working. But the question is how do we get there? How could we kick start the economy so that businesses aren’t even necessarily getting pressured in to raising their wages higher, but that they need to because there are a lot of people with a lot of skills who can demand a lot for the work they’re doing?

Marketplace reporter Krissy Clark talking with volunteers at a Foodbank in Ohio.

David Letterman retires from 'Late Show'

Thu, 2014-04-03 13:19
Thursday, April 3, 2014 - 15:58 Wikimedia Commons

David Letterman is putting down the mic.

There's a coming changing of the guard at the Ed Sullivan Theater.   David Letterman has announced that this will be his last year as host of The Late Show with David Letterman on CBS.   So, just one more year of Stupid Pet Tricks, trips to see Rupert Jee at the Hello Deli, of that playful banter with Paul.   No word on who'll replace Letterman.   Maybe Jay Leno's interested?   Marketplace for Thursday April 3, 2014by David GuraPodcast Title: David Letterman retires from 'Late Show'Story Type: News StorySyndication: SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond: No

Overdraft fees hit a record

Thu, 2014-04-03 13:02

If you’ve overdrawn your checking account lately, you may have noticed a jump in the penalty. A recent study from economic research firm Moebs Services says the median overdraft charge reached $30 last year—up from $29 the year before.

Banks say they’re trying to make up for lost revenue. Since 2010, customers have to opt in to overdraft plans, which let you buy that $4 latte even when you have just $2 in your account. That’s cut into the fees banks can collect. Moebs says people are also being more careful not to spend money they don’t have.

David Letterman retires from 'Late Show'

Thu, 2014-04-03 12:58

There's a coming changing of the guard at the Ed Sullivan Theater.   David Letterman has announced that this will be his last year as host of The Late Show with David Letterman on CBS.   So, just one more year of Stupid Pet Tricks, trips to see Rupert Jee at the Hello Deli, of that playful banter with Paul.   No word on who'll replace Letterman.   Maybe Jay Leno's interested?  

What to do when healthcare isn't enough

Thu, 2014-04-03 12:48

We were all trying to breathe through our mouths, and despite his obvious pain, 45-year-old Mariano Garcia sat transfixed, watching his podiatrist Dr. David Millili cut through the bandages wrapped around Garcia's left calf.

It was one of those moments that takes forever, the smell filling the air. As the dressings came off, the room went quiet.

Garcia gagged, and Millili balked.

“I don’t have access to treat this right,” Millili said. “I don’t see any maggots or anything. I’m not dealing with this.”

Millili turned to Garcia:  “When was the last time the bandages were changed?”

“Last time I was here,” Garcia said.

Millili was incredulous. “Really? A week?” he said.

Jessica Kourkounis

Millili changing Garcia's bandages.

Garcia’s been coming to Cooper University Hospital in Camden, N.J. for two years now, and everybody in the exam room knows exactly what needs to happen: Those bandages must get changed daily. But no matter how simple it sounds, it’s not happening.

Garcia says it hurts him too much to do it, and visiting nurses say they don’t feel safe going to his neighborhood. Frustrated and defeated, Millili has one choice right now, but he knows sending Garcia to the hospital is just a temporary fix.

“When we finally get things turned in the right direction again for him, how do we keep it that way?” Millili says. “Three weeks after he leaves the hospital, why are we not in the same situation? I can’t control infection. I can’t control pain. I can’t control these wounds.”

The doctor is talking about Garcia, but he may as well be talking about one of the biggest puzzles in this new era of healthcare. How can doctors keep people healthy when they have almost no control over what happens outside the four walls of the hospital?

It’s the edge of the healthcare world.

“A lot of clinical care is kind of like the tree falling in the forest,” saysRebecca Onie who runs the non-profit Health Leads, which works with medical providers to connect their patients to social services. “For example, a patient will come in to manage her diabetes but needs to refrigerate her medication and hasn’t had electricity for six weeks.”

Onie says now that hospitals either must drive down costs, or face what could be crippling financial penalties. Healthcare executives must leave the medical map behind and head out for the uncharted territory.

“They are going to have to begin paying for a set of things that have historically [been] considered outside the scope of traditional healthcare,” she says.

And so we are beginning to see healthcare’s first, hesitant steps, where doctors and hospitals wade into the world of social services. 

Health Leads works with 20 providers, serving some 15,000 families. Kaiser Permanente, one of the top health systems, has several pilot programs, including one in Oregon where ambulance staff act more like social workers – helping solve would-be domestic problems, and avoiding trips to the ER.

“We spend almost 1.5 times more than the next most expensive country and yet our health outcomes are among the very worst in all high income countries,” says Yale public health professor Elizabeth Bradley.

She says it’s no mystery that education, poverty and safety have more to do with a person’s overall health than medical care does. In her book last fall, Bradley and her co-author, Lauren Taylor, found people in countries that spend less on medical care but more on social services were healthier than people in the United States.

“The major reason we are not doing better... the unnamed culprit is that we are probably spending less on the social services than is necessary,” Bradley says.

This social service healthcare frontier isn’t as popular as the California Gold Rush, but it's close. It’s on the tip of tongues at healthcare conferences. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation identified it earlier this year as one of three critical steps to move healthcare forward. Even the nation’s largest healthcare program for the poor – Medicaid – has signaled its willingness to pay for some care outside the traditional stuff -- for example, air conditioners for asthmatics.

“We recognize that it can’t just be the office visit,” says Dr. Stephen Cha, the chief medical officer for Medicaid. “That’s the core of it, but we have to think about when we face this patient, we are looking at much more than just what we can do in that 15-minute span.”

In this first wave of programs, insurers aren’t paying for job training, hospitals aren’t moving families out of dangerous neighborhoods. But if interventions save money, then the game changes.

Kaiser Permanente’s Raymond Baxter, who oversees several non-medical projects, including the paramedic pilot, says it’s early, but that he sees promise.

“We are now adding a cost to the system in the short term,” he says. “However, if that intervention averts a series of visits to emergency rooms, in the long run you are going to see some real gains here.

Harvard health economist Amitabh Chandra has his doubts. Providers can only save money if they can pinpoint which patients truly benefit – a tall order – he says.

“I think of that as analogous to the man mission to Mars,” Chandra says. “It’s something that can be done. There is no theorem in economics or statistics that says it’s not possible. But you need absolutely terrific data to be able to make that happen. And I’ve just never seen it.”

Chandra’s driving at the X-Factor so often at the crux of healthcare: What can make people change their behavior?

Which brings us back to Mariano Garcia in Camden.

“I wish I could get better and get all this cleared and get me a job and work,” Garcia says.

Garcia’s life is so precarious, his options all risky. If he lands a spot in an inpatient treatment program for his leg, he’s not sure what happens to his one-room apartment.

Jessica Kourkounis

Garcia at home. 

“I don’t want to lose my place because I’ve going to the hospital,” he says. “When I get discharged from the hospital, then I’m where am I going to go out?”

There’s no easy answer, which is what makes wading outside medical care tricky. But hospital staff addressing Garcia’s social needs has helped him keep appointments and – even once or twice – change his own bandages.

What to do when an online review isn't true

Thu, 2014-04-03 12:35
Thursday, April 3, 2014 - 13:32 Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Employees of the online review site Yelp at the East Coast headquarters of the tech company in New York City

Negative, anonymous reviews on websites like Yelp can hurt small businesses.

A carpet cleaner in Virginia says false and malicious reviews on Yelp drove customers away, forcing the company to lay off employees.

Joe Hadeed wants the Virginia Supreme Court to force Yelp to reveal the identities of the people who wrote the negative reviews.

But Virginia law is unusual. In the rest of the country, most judges have protected anonymous online reviews to ensure reviewers are safe from retaliation.

Yelp spokesman Vince Sollitto says the company vets its reviews. “We actually use an algorithm to recommend the most valuable and reliable content. So Yelp only recommends about 75 percent of the content it receives.”

Marketplace for Thursday April 3, 2014by Jeff TylerPodcast Title: What to do when an online review isn't trueStory Type: News StorySyndication: SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond: No

G4S goes where public forces can't

Thu, 2014-04-03 12:26
Thursday, April 3, 2014 - 13:23 Lars Schmidt/Wikimedia Commons

London based company G4S is the largest private security company in the entire world. It contracts ex-military soliders to go where public forces can’t. The company has about 620,000 employees in 120 different countries, and provides gurard services anywhere from oil fields to nuclear facilities in the U.S.

William Langewiesche wrote about the company in a piece for Vanity Fair called “The Chaos Company”.  He said G4S is a $12 billion a year industry, and that the company has grown so large, that sometimes they have lost control.

“There’s no doubt that that’s a problem for G4S -- as it would be for any company that size. So yes, of course they have problems. And they’re an easy target because they are a private force and this goes against the conventional grain: Where these are either police or military functions... in an ideal world [they] would be performed by a public force.  But you have to compare that to the riots, the killings, the brutatlity done by armies and by police forces.”

Langewiesche said the private security business is not without criticism, but that those who oppose the industry should take a close look at what public forces have actually done.

Marketplace for Thursday April 3, 2014Interview by David GuraPodcast Title: G4S goes where public forces can'tStory Type: InterviewSyndication: SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond: No

What to do when an online review isn't true

Thu, 2014-04-03 10:32

Negative, anonymous reviews on websites like Yelp can hurt small businesses.

A carpet cleaner in Virginia says false and malicious reviews on Yelp drove customers away, forcing the company to lay off employees.

Joe Hadeed wants the Virginia Supreme Court to force Yelp to reveal the identities of the people who wrote the negative reviews.

But Virginia law is unusual. In the rest of the country, most judges have protected anonymous online reviews to ensure reviewers are safe from retaliation.

Yelp spokesman Vince Sollitto says the company vets its reviews. “We actually use an algorithm to recommend the most valuable and reliable content. So Yelp only recommends about 75 percent of the content it receives.”

G4S goes where public forces can't

Thu, 2014-04-03 10:23

London based company G4S is the largest private security company in the entire world. It contracts ex-military soliders to go where public forces can’t. The company has about 620,000 employees in 120 different countries, and provides gurard services anywhere from oil fields to nuclear facilities in the U.S.

William Langewiesche wrote about the company in a piece for Vanity Fair called “The Chaos Company”.  He said G4S is a $12 billion a year industry, and that the company has grown so large, that sometimes they have lost control.

“There’s no doubt that that’s a problem for G4S -- as it would be for any company that size. So yes, of course they have problems. And they’re an easy target because they are a private force and this goes against the conventional grain: Where these are either police or military functions... in an ideal world [they] would be performed by a public force.  But you have to compare that to the riots, the killings, the brutatlity done by armies and by police forces.”

Langewiesche said the private security business is not without criticism, but that those who oppose the industry should take a close look at what public forces have actually done.

What we look for in a monthly jobs report

Thu, 2014-04-03 09:32

Updated, Friday at 8:35am ET: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported domestic employers added 192,000 to non-farm payrolls in the month of March, leaving the current unemployment rate at about 6.7 percent. 

The numbers are considered an important way to check on the nation’s economic vital signs. A couple things we looked for on Friday: 

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,  December we added 84,000, and in January we added 113,000 144,000.  February wasn’t great either at 129,000 197,000 jobs created. [Strikethroughs represent the original BLS estimates, they revised their numbers in the March jobs report released Friday].

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.

PODCAST: Fewest first quarter layoffs since 1995

Thu, 2014-04-03 09:26
Thursday, April 3, 2014 - 09:43 Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Jobs fair.

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.

Marketplace Morning Report for Thursday April 3, 2014by David BrancaccioPodcast Title: PODCAST: Fewest first quarter layoffs since 1995Syndication: All in onePMPApp Respond: No

Overdraft fees hit a record

Thu, 2014-04-03 09:10
Thursday, April 3, 2014 - 16:02 Spencer Platt/Getty Images

People walk by a Citibank office in midtown Manhattan in New York City.

If you’ve overdrawn your checking account lately, you may have noticed a jump in the penalty. A recent study from economic research firm Moebs Services says the median overdraft charge reached $30 last year—up from $29 the year before.

Banks say they’re trying to make up for lost revenue. Since 2010, customers have to opt in to overdraft plans, which let you buy that $4 latte even when you have just $2 in your account. That’s cut into the fees banks can collect. Moebs says people are also being more careful not to spend money they don’t have.

Marketplace for Thursday April 3, 2014by Amy ScottPodcast Title: Overdraft fees hit a record Story Type: News StorySyndication: SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond: No

The Ukraine crisis could extend to outer space

Thu, 2014-04-03 09:06

Updated Thursday, April 3: So, as it turns out, the ongoing political tensions in Ukraine will impact things in space. According to a statement released Wednesday, NASA will suspend "the majority of its ongoing engagements with the Russian Federation."

This does not however, include the operation of the International Space Station, which will continue. But travel to Russia, bilateral conferences, and email are all out the (space) window.

As noted below in the original article, NASA hopes  to have rockets launched from U.S. soil by 2017. And this could serve as a wake-up call to Congress. According to the statement, "The choice here is between fully funding the plan to bring space launches back to America or continuing to send millions of dollars to the Russians. It's that simple."

The ongoing political tensions in Ukraine might be one of the biggest diplomatic crises on Earth, but could it affect people in space? Since the American-Russian space partnership is more entwined than ever, it’s something to consider.

Both countries depend on each other to operate in space: Russia uses America's communication services and electrical systems, and (along with 13 other countries) the U.S. and Russia operate the International Space Station. NASA is extremely reliant on Roscosmos (the Russian space agency). The U.S. uses a Russian-built rocket, the RD-180, to put most of its national security payloads into space.

Perhaps most importantly, NASA is not capable of getting Americans off Earth without Russia's involvement. Due to the 2010 retirement of the space shuttle, NASA has been paying Russia around $70 million per astronaut to fly Americans up to the International Space Station. It's conceivable that Russia could simply refuse to let Americans use their Soyuz spacecraft.

According to John Logsdon, a space policy expert who is a professor emeritus at George Washington University, that scenario isn't likely but "it's a possibility."

"I wouldn't rank it as a very high possibility, but the reality is, it is in Russia's ability to do that," Logsdon says.

If that unlikely scenario did happen, we could, Logsdon says, have to wait two years until another American was sent into space – via NASA's Commercial Crew Program, a collaboration between NASA and several spacecraft companies. The basic idea is for NASA to facilitate the development of several spacecraft capable of transporting humans to the space station, and then choose which one it wants to use.

Right now, SpaceX is building the Dragon, Boeing is building the CST 100, and Sierra Nevada is building the Dream Chaser. The plan, as it stands now, is to have one of these spacecraft take Americans to the ISS by the end of 2017.

But this timetable could be rushed, and one of the spacecraft might be able to take off sometime in 2016. This would involve either spending more money for frequent test flights or requiring fewer tests. And fewer tests would make the entire project riskier.

Still, Roscosmos's refusing to cooperate with NASA due to the Ukraine situation is not an expected outcome. NASA spokesman Bob Jacobs expressed that Russia and America have had a long and fruitful partnership in space and emphasized that the partnership wasn't affected by diplomatic crises like the Georgian invasion of 2008.

"Congress even approved an extension of NASA's exemption from the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act during that time, which was needed for everything from acquiring Soyuz seats to the purchase of hardware for some of our commercial providers," Jacobs says.

NASA also managed to cooperate with the Russians during the height of the Cold War, which, as diplomatic crises go, was not a minor one. 

Even so, the situation in Ukraine might be the wake-up call to what the U.S. government needs, according to some.

"This dependence on another country, and particularly a former and potentially future geopolitical rival, for things of extreme strategic importance to U.S., is completely unacceptable," says Logsdon.

Many see the situation as a consequence of the government's slashing of the budget for space travel, which has left the U.S. in an unenviable scenario, one that advocates say only a larger budget can fix. And this might have even greater ramifications on the future of space exploration.

"Right now the big players with the money and capabilities are the U.S., Russia, and China," says Brian Weeden, technical advisor to the Secure World Foundation. "Congress has already blocked any cooperation between the U.S. and China on space activities, and the politics behind that are unlikely to change soon. If Russia is now off the table as well, then that could be a serious blow to any major human spaceflight mission to the moon or Mars in the near future. I just don't see how the other countries will be able to afford it without contributions from either Russia or China."

Going beyond GDP to measure economic health

Thu, 2014-04-03 09:04
Thursday, April 3, 2014 - 11:14 Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A container ship is docked at the Port of Oakland October 30, 2008 in Oakland, California.

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. 

Marketplace Morning Report for Thursday April 3, 2014Interview by David BrancaccioPodcast Title: New study looks beyond GDP to measure economic healthStory Type: InterviewSyndication: Flipboard BusinessSlackerSoundcloudStitcherBusiness InsiderSwellPMPApp Respond: No

Questioning the reliability of ADP job numbers

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

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

KBBI is Powered by Active Listeners like You

As we celebrate 35 years of broadcasting, we look ahead to technology improvements and the changing landscape of public radio.

Support the voices, music, information, and ideas that add so much to your life. Renew here or visit KBBI by April 21 to enter to win one round-trip airfare with Era between Homer and Anchorage. Thank you for supporting your local public radio station.

ON THE AIR

FOLLOW US

Drupal theme by pixeljets.com ver.1.4