All this week we've been hearing about the making of the Planet Money T-shirt, a global journey that's taken us from the United States to Indonesia, Bangladesh, Colombia and back to the States. The series raised big questions about the nature of the garment industry and the role the very clothes on our back play in the global economy. I'm joined now by Planet Money's Alex Blumberg to wrap up the project. And Alex, when you think about all these stories, is there one single biggest takeaway that you're left with?
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And I'm Robert Siegel. The unemployment rate hit a five-year low in November. That's according to the government's latest monthly jobs report. The other headline, the economy beat expectations adding more than 200,000 jobs. NPR's John Ydstie has more on what that says about the health of the economy and about whether the Federal Reserve might dial back its stimulus efforts.
Originally published on Fri December 6, 2013 2:20 pm
If you want to eat a more healthful diet, you're going to have to shell out more cash, right? (After all, Whole Foods didn't get the nickname "Whole Paycheck" for nothing.)
But until recently, that widely held bit of conventional wisdom hadn't really been assessed in a rigorous, systematic way, says Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist and epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health.
And Brazil's state oil company, Petrobras, lost 15 percent of its market value this week - that's some $10 billion. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reports from Sao Paulo on why oil analysts predict more trouble ahead for the oil giant.
The Labor Department on Friday said the nation's unemployment rate fell to 7 percent, a five-year low, as U.S. employers added 203,000 jobs to payrolls in November. In October, the unemployment rate was 7.3 percent.
NPR's Planet Money team is manufacturing its own T-shirt. After the women's shirt was assembled in Colombia, they voyaged by container ship to Miami. The container, a big standardized box that moves easily from truck to ship to train, is the unsung hero of the global economy. It was invented in the 1950s and dramatically reduced shipping costs, ushering in a new era vastly different than the world retired stevedores remember.
Workers rallied in 100 cities on Thursday to raise awareness for increasing pressure to raise wages. The push comes as 19 cities and states already raised minimum wages. A report from Berkeley economists finds the low-wage fast food jobs are costing taxpayer billions of dollars in public assistance — everything from food stamps to Medicaid.
Congress still has a long to-do list and not much time left. The House hopes to wrap it up next week — just as the Senate returns from a Thanksgiving break. On many lawmakers' lists are efforts to complete a farm bill before milk prices go off the "dairy cliff." That on top of tough budget negotiations.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D- Mass., listens to testimony during a Banking Committee hearing on Nov. 12. In a Senate floor speech on Social Security last month, Warren said, "With some modest adjustments, we can keep the system solvent for many more years, and we could even increase benefits."
For the past three years, there's been a shortfall in the payroll taxes collected for Social Security. And as more baby boomers join the ranks of the 57 million people already receiving benefits, that deficit is bound to keep growing.
At the same time, the overall share of wages being taxed for Social Security is shrinking as the higher wages that are exempt have soared. The Social Security Board of Trustees predicts a nearly $3 trillion trust fund built up over decades will vanish within 20 years.
Originally published on Thu December 5, 2013 11:23 am
The U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of 3.6 percent in the third quarter, according to data released Thursday by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. That's a rise from the second quarter, when the real gross domestic product tallied a 2.5 percent gain.
The pace of growth is the fastest since the first quarter of 2012, which clocked in at 3.7 percent.
Thursday's release is the "second" estimate for the third quarter, following up on data released in November that put the GDP's increase at 2.8 percent.
Wal-Mart opened its first two stores in Washington, D.C. yesterday, earning cheers from the district's mayor and some residents who say they'll be happy to shop in the city and not in the suburbs. But there have been months of debate over the wages the big box store pays its employees. Some activists and lawmakers say Wal-Mart does not pay workers enough to live on.