Scott Horsley

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Starting tomorrow, some workers may get a boost in their take-home pay. That's because the Trump administration has given employers the option to stop collecting payroll taxes through the end of this year. The windfall is only temporary, though. Unless Congress decides to forgive the taxes, employees will have to repay the money next year. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

Americans spent more money on cars, health care and eating out last month than they did in June. The Commerce Department says consumer spending rose 1.9% in July.

The punch bowl can stay.

The Federal Reserve is adjusting its long-term policy on inflation and employment, and says it will no longer tap the brakes preemptively to prevent the economy from overheating — a job famously likened to taking away the punch bowl just as the party gets going.

Almost 30 million people are now collecting unemployment benefits. Yet President Trump still gets relatively high marks for his handling of the economy.

As Republicans focus on "opportunity" at their convention Tuesday, the economy remains one of the president's strongest selling points.

"You see the kind of numbers that we're putting up. They're unbelievable," Trump told supporters in Minnesota last week. "More jobs in the last three months than ever before."

The Trump administration has struck a small-scale trade agreement with the European Union that could send more American lobster across the Atlantic.

Europe has agreed to suspend tariffs on imports of live and frozen lobster from the U.S. for at least 5 years. In exchange, the U.S. will cut tariffs by 50% on some European products, including crystal glassware and cigarette lighters.

Updated at 9:50 a.m. ET

President Trump's plan to boost unemployment benefits temporarily by $300 a week is getting a fairly cool reception around the country.

Since Trump made the offer earlier this month, fewer than half the states have taken him up on it.

Summer temperatures in Glendale, Ariz., frequently climb to 110 degrees.

"I can go outside and scramble eggs on the sidewalk," says Glendale resident Leandra Ramirez. "That's crazy."

Air conditioning is essential. And now that she and her family are at home all day during the pandemic, Ramirez's AC is running around the clock.

With lights out in many offices and shuttered businesses, millions of people — both with and without jobs — are plugging in at home. Residential demand for power in the U.S. has soared, even as commercial and industrial use have declined.

First-time claims for state unemployment benefits dropped below 1 million last week for the first time since the pandemic hit the economy in March. Claims under a special pandemic program for gig workers and others who are typically not eligible for unemployment also fell.

The drop may signal an improvement in the job market. Jobless benefits have also become less valuable, since a $600 per week federal supplement expired at the end of July.

President Trump wants to give a $100 billion boost to the U.S. economy by hitting the "pause" button on workers' payroll taxes.

That would leave more money in people's paychecks. But the move — which Trump ordered over the weekend — is only temporary. And that could produce headaches down the road for workers, employers and the Social Security system.

It has been about five months since the U.S. economy ground to a halt, thanks to stay-at-home orders imposed to stop the spread of the coronavirus. NPR wants to know how the pandemic has affected your job situation, your household finances, your business if you have one and your ability to juggle work and child care.

Millions of people have had to seek unemployment benefits, business loans and other help to deal with the economic turmoil. Some employers have permanently closed their doors. And some schools are telling families to prepare again for distance learning.

Updated at 8:45 a.m. ET

U.S. employers added 1.8 million jobs last month, as the unemployment rate dipped to 10.2%.

The pace of hiring slowed from June, when employers added a record 4.8 million jobs. That suggests a long road back to full employment for the tens of millions of people who have been laid off during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Updated at 9 a.m ET

Ordinarily when people lose their job, they spend less money. But something unusual happened this spring when tens of millions of people were suddenly thrown out of work by the coronavirus pandemic.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Updated at 9:32 a.m. ET

The coronavirus pandemic triggered the sharpest economic contraction in modern American history, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.

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For Lorena Schneehagen, the additional $600 unemployment payment each week during the coronavirus pandemic has held her family's expenses together.

She's an out-of-work preschool teacher in Ann Arbor, Mich., whose son is about to start college.

"I need that to help pay his tuition," Schneehagen said. "And for food and just to pay the general bills."

For years, Matt Harris dreamed about building a treehouse out behind his back fence in Knoxville, Tenn. He never got around to it, though, until the pandemic hit.

"It was just a matter of finding time," Harris says. "And that didn't come until everything kind of shut down for a little bit."

When the coronavirus canceled youth sports for the season, Harris suddenly found his weekends free. And his children — ages 8, 7 and 4 — made a willing construction crew.

The federal deficit ballooned last month as the U.S. government tried to cushion the blow from the coronavirus pandemic. The red ink in June alone totaled $864 billion.

The federal government ran a bigger deficit last month alone than it usually does all year. Washington spent hundreds of billions of dollars trying to prop up small businesses and assist laid-off workers.

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.

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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.

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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.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

BJ Leiderman still writes our theme music, but pocket change is the new toilet paper. How's that for a transition?

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.

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