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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.

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.

Updated at 5:12 p.m. ET

The coronavirus pandemic is likely to trigger the sharpest recession in the United States since the Great Depression. An early signal of that came Wednesday, when the Commerce Department said the economy shrank at a 4.8% annual rate in the first three months of the year — the first quarterly contraction since 2014 and the largest since the Great Recession.

Will Thompson and his wife Annie are expecting their first child this fall.

But because of restrictions at local hospitals, Thompson has not been able to accompany Annie to her prenatal doctor's visits, including one where they expect to learn their baby's gender.

Thompson chokes up talking about this: "My wife is an incredibly strong woman, and she's amazing. I just — I wish I could."

The Denver couple plan to ask their doctor to write "boy" or "girl" inside an envelope, so they can open it later, together.

Maxwell Kirsner used to build sets for a company that staged big events in New York City. Those events dried up suddenly in mid-March.

"I was laid off on Friday the 13th," he recalls.

The timing actually turned out to be fortunate, as Kirsner was able to apply for and start receiving jobless benefits before the huge wave of layoffs that soon followed, overwhelming unemployment offices.

His fiancée, Natalie Borowicz, and others who worked for the same company got pink slips a few weeks later. When we spoke, some were still waiting for their benefits to begin.

"You can't really have a concert if you can't have an audience," David Roode muses.

His career as a concert trombonist in Cincinnati went abruptly on hold when stay-at-home orders took effect in March.

"I had months of gigs that were just canceled."

Roode and his wife, a concert pianist, have done some recording while on lockdown in Cincinnati. And they've tapped into savings they typically rely on during the slower summer months.

Angelita Wynn has driven a school bus for six years.

Wynn was driving the kids back home on her afternoon run in Pittsburgh one day in March when she got word her job was going away. Over the radio.

"Our dispatcher came across the radio saying that school was closed, so that's how I found out," Wynn said. "And that's the last time I've been in the bus."

Her favorite thing about her job was the sense of freedom it offered, where driving can get you from one place to another. Her least favorite thing: It didn't pay a living wage.

While the president and his advisers talk about "reopening" the economy, there are parts of it that never closed.

Many factories are still operating around the clock, churning out the products we depend on during this pandemic, including food, face masks and toilet paper.

"I get a lot of ribbing locally in my neighborhood," says Jose de los Rios, who works at a giant Procter & Gamble plant in Mehoopany, Pa., where Charmin toilet paper is produced. "At least a third or half of my neighbors stop me and jokingly ask, 'Can I get them some?' "

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The Treasury Department has begun sending $1,200 relief payments to people affected by the coronavirus. Electronic payments have already started landing in people's bank accounts. But the IRS has launched a pair of websites to speed payments to those who haven't already supplied the government with their bank information.

The coronavirus pandemic is likely to trigger the worst recession since the Great Depression — dwarfing the fallout from the financial crisis a dozen years ago, the International Monetary Fund warned Tuesday.

It predicts the global economy will shrink 3% this year, before rebounding in 2021. The expected contraction in the U.S. will be almost twice as sharp, the IMF said, with the gross domestic product falling by 5.9% in 2020. The IMF predicts a partial recovery in the U.S. next year, with the economy growing by 4.7%.

Updated at 11:07 a.m. ET

The Federal Reserve announced several new lending programs Thursday, designed to pump an additional $2.3 trillion into a U.S. economy that has been severely battered by the coronavirus pandemic.

"People have been asked to put their lives and livelihoods on hold, at significant economic and personal cost," Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said during a webcast organized by the Brookings Institution. "As a society, we should do everything we can to provide relief to those who are suffering for the public good."

The coronavirus has dealt a body blow to U.S. workers. So far, it's women who are paying much of the price.

The Labor Department says more than 700,000 jobs were eliminated in the first wave of pandemic layoffs last month. Nearly 60% of those jobs were held by women.

As the United States tumbles into a coronavirus recession, the Federal Reserve is using its nearly unlimited power to generate cash to cushion the fall.

"The Fed is doing everything they can to keep financial markets functioning and credit available to households and firms," former Fed Chair Janet Yellen said during a forum organized by the Brookings Institution.

Updated at 10:09 a.m. ET

For the first time in nearly a decade, the U.S. suffered a net loss of jobs as the coronavirus began to take hold in the country. But a monthly snapshot from the Labor Department shows only the first pinpricks of what will soon be a gaping wound.

Factories in the U.S. are hunkering down like the rest of us.

Manufacturing activity slowed in March, according to a survey conducted by the Institute for Supply Management.

Production and factory employment fell sharply, as the coronavirus pandemic and other problems weighed on the factory sector. New orders hit their lowest level in 11 years.

With millions of American workers suddenly idled in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the United States appears poised to go from the lowest unemployment rate in half a century to the highest since World War II.

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The toll of the coronavirus pandemic is steep - hundreds of thousands of confirmed infections around the world, tens of thousands of lives lost.

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Toilet tissue isn't the only paper product that Americans are hoarding these days. Paper money is also in high demand.

Banks are seeing more cash withdrawals as nervous customers try to protect themselves from the uncertainty of the coronavirus clampdown.

The U.S. economy has never hit the brakes quite like this before.

While the course of the coronavirus pandemic is unpredictable, forecasters are using their economic models and making some educated guesses about just how bad the damage will be. The forecasts are not pretty:

  • Oxford Economics expects the U.S. economy to shrink at an annual rate of 12% between April and June.
  • JPMorgan Chase sees a second-quarter contraction of 14%.

Updated at 11:15 a.m. ET Thursday

The Trump administration wants to give Americans an emergency shot of spending money, even as it's closing many of the places they would ordinarily spend it.

As part of its $1 trillion proposal to address the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, the administration has proposed sending up to $500 billion directly to U.S. households.

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Six minutes after trading began on the New York Stock Exchange on Monday, it was suddenly halted. That's when the S&P 500 index had plummeted 7% and marketwide circuit breakers kicked in. Trading resumed about 15 minutes later.

The marketwide halt was the first since the stock market crash of Oct. 27, 1997, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 554 points, or 7.2%.

Under market rules, circuit breakers kick in at three thresholds:

Updated at 10:31 a.m. ET

Fear of the coronavirus doesn't appear to have infected the U.S. job market yet, despite sending shivers through Wall Street.

A new report from the Labor Department says employers added 273,000 jobs in February — the same as in January. The February increase was about 100,000 more than private analysts had forecast. The unemployment rate dipped to 3.5%, matching a 50-year low.

Job gains for December and January were revised up by a total of 85,000.

Updated at 4:05 p.m. ET

Stocks continued their free-fall on Thursday, with major indexes falling into correction territory. The Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled nearly 1,200 points as worries mounted about the economic toll of a widening coronavirus epidemic.

The Dow ended the day down 4.4%, and nearly 13% below its recent peak on Feb. 12. A drop of 10% from a recent high is the technical definition of a "correction."

Stocks fell sharply for a second day in a row. The Dow dropped 879 points on Tuesday, after tumbling more than 1,000 points on Monday.

While the coronavirus outbreak in China appears to have peaked, investors are worried by the growing number of cases in other countries, as well as a warning from U.S. health officials that the virus could hit closer to home.

Just last week, the S&P 500 stock index was hitting record highs. Now it's fallen more than 6% in just the last two days.

Updated at 5:05 p.m. ET

The coronavirus contagion has spread to Wall Street.

U.S. markets fell sharply Monday amid widening concern that the continuing spread of cases could lead to a global pandemic. The Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled nearly 1032 points, or 3.56% All of the major market indexes were down more than 3%.

Stock markets in Europe and Asia were also down sharply.

"This is not a health pandemic yet, but it's rapidly becoming an economic pandemic," said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton.

Wells Fargo has agreed to pay $3 billion to settle charges that the bank engaged in fraudulent sales practices for more than a decade.

The company acknowledged collecting millions of dollars in fees for bank accounts, debit cards and other products that customers neither asked for nor needed. The illegal practices were carried out by thousands of Wells Fargo employees in order to meet unrealistic sales targets.

Updated at 11:23 a.m. ET

The U.S. labor market revved up in January, with employers adding 225,000 jobs. That's well above the number forecasters were expecting. The unemployment rate inched up to 3.6%, near a 50-year low, according to a new report from the Labor Department.

Employment growth for November and December was also revised upwards by a total of 7,000 jobs.

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