Scott Horsley | Michigan Radio
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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.

Bob Sinner, a specialty soybean producer in North Dakota, has a major problem on his hands: He has plenty of beans, but he's struggling to ship them to his customers overseas, and his deliveries are running at least a month and a half behind schedule.

"We've had customers in Asia that have had to stop their operations waiting for supply," Sinner says. "Our farmers need to get their storage facilities emptied because we have a new crop that's coming in September, October. We have to get this product moving."

Surging prices for used cars have been a major driver of inflation this year. Now, there are signs those price hikes may be shifting into reverse — and that could provide important clues about where inflation is headed next.

The prices dealers pay for used cars at massive auctions across the country finally dipped in June after hitting record highs in each of the four previous months, according to the Manheim Used Vehicle Value Index.

It's been a roller-coaster ride for lumber prices over the last year – and it's drawn outsize attention from the aisles of Home Depot to the Federal Reserve.

Lumber prices surged to record highs this year on the back of booming demand from homebuilders and do-it-yourselfers with plenty of time on their hands. The price surge was so big and sudden, it became a symbol of what some economists feared: rampant inflation.

Solstice Wood Fire Pizza in Hood River, Ore., made it through the depths of the pandemic. And now that Americans are eating out and doing all the things that had been off-limits, this should be a booming time for owner Aaron Baumhackl.

Instead, Baumhackl is facing an unexpected problem. He's struggling to find all the workers he needs to churn out his pizzas, and he's losing valuable business.

"The demand is like we've never seen before," says Baumhackl. "It would have been a record-breaking year."

John Nephew thought he had a winner with a new tabletop game called Dice Miner. Importing the games from China turned out to be its own roll of the dice.

Nephew, founder of Atlas Games in Duluth, Minn., ordered a 40-foot cargo container full of games from Shanghai in December, anticipating delivery in about six weeks.

Updated June 16, 2021 at 5:19 PM ET

The Federal Reserve will continue pumping money into the economy despite a sharp jump in consumer prices.

The central bank said Wednesday it would leave interest rates near zero and maintain its aggressive program of bond purchases in hopes of encouraging a faster rebound from the pandemic recession.

"We at the Fed will do everything we can to support the economy for as long as it takes to complete the recovery," Fed chairman Jerome Powell told reporters Wednesday.

Updated June 10, 2021 at 9:56 AM ET

Prices for a lot of things are surging across the U.S., and John McConnell's recent car-shopping experience helps explain why.

McConnell, from Colorado Springs, Colo., was recently looking for a Toyota Tacoma to replace his two-year-old Nissan Altima and was shocked to see the one he wanted priced several thousand dollars above the sticker price.

He plans to buy it anyway.

Updated June 12, 2021 at 6:35 AM ET

The United States is about to embark on a big national experiment with 4 million unemployed workers serving as guinea pigs. And it all centers on $300 a week.

That payment was intended as a lifeline for millions of Americans who lost their jobs during the pandemic: an extra $300 a week on top of regular unemployment benefits.

Updated June 4, 2021 at 1:21 PM ET

Hiring picked up steam last month, providing a mild shot of relief to an economy that needs workers as millions of Americans start to venture out again.

U.S. employers added 559,000 jobs in May. That's about twice the number of jobs that were added during a disappointing April but is still a slowdown compared with the 770,000 jobs created in March.

Updated May 7, 2021 at 1:18 PM ET

Hiring unexpectedly slowed last month as businesses struggled to keep pace with booming demand from newly vaccinated customers.

U.S. employers added just 266,000 jobs in April, according to a monthly snapshot from the Labor Department. It was the weakest month of job growth since January.

Beverly Pickering says her neighbors in suburban Detroit are hitting the road. And that's good news for her pet sitting business.

"I have people going to California, Florida, the Carolinas — all over the country," she said. "It's travel, travel, travel. It's just exploded."

From iPads to dresses, Americans flush with cash are stepping up their spending, helping turbo-charge the U.S. economy.

The Commerce Department reported Friday that personal income jumped 21.1% in March — the largest increase on record as the government sent out $1,400 relief payments as part of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue effort.

Personal spending also jumped by 4.2%. The stimulus checks arrived at a time of rising hope as coronavirus vaccines continue to roll out.

Updated April 29, 2021 at 8:43 AM ET

The U.S. economy expanded at a rapid pace in the first three months of the year, setting the stage for what's expected to be the strongest annual growth in nearly four decades.

When the pandemic hit last year, Andrew Leckie, who runs half a dozen restaurants and a catering company in Edmonds, Wash., was forced to lay off more than 200 employees.

Demand for his oysters and craft cocktails had dried up and his businesses were in trouble until a program intended to provide loans to small businesses like his came to his rescue.

"I don't think there's any way we would have been able to withstand the financial challenges that existed without this money," Leckie says.

Updated April 15, 2021 at 4:52 PM ET

Signs of an economic boom are emerging as Americans open up their wallets to spend freely.

Retail sales soared 9.8% in March, according to a report Thursday from the Commerce Department. The increase follows a 2.7% slump in February, which analysts blamed partly on severe winter weather.

Prices for some of your favorite things are going up. The big question is how long the price hikes will last.

Consumer prices rose 0.6% in March, according to the Labor Department — the sharpest increase in nearly nine years. Higher gasoline prices account for nearly half the increase, but prices for hotel rooms, baseball tickets and haircuts were also higher.

The United States may just become the engine of global economic growth this year, according to a new forecast released Tuesday by the International Monetary Fund.

The IMF expects the U.S. economy will grow 6.4% this year, its strongest growth in decades. That's faster than the 5.1% growth it was projecting just two months ago and nearly double the growth rate it predicted in October.

Updated April 2, 2021 at 12:34 PM ET

Hiring accelerated last month as U.S. employers added 916,000 workers to their payrolls. It was the largest job gain since August, fueled in part by an improving public health outlook and a new round of $1,400 relief payments.

President Biden cheered the encouraging jobs report during remarks to reporters at the White House.

Millions of people are at risk of losing electricity in the coming weeks because of unpaid power bills, even as Congress has authorized billions of dollars in supplemental relief.

Overdue power bills have mushroomed during the pandemic as job losses mounted and residential power consumption soared.

Many states restrict power shutoffs during the winter. But with those safeguards expiring in more than a dozen states this month, the threat of widespread power interruption is growing.

Updated March 26, 2021 at 11:29 AM ET

Updated at 11:29 a.m.

George Holland, the mayor of Moorhead, Miss., remembers the feeling when he heard that Regions Bank was closing its branch in his small, rural town a few years ago.

"That was actually the only bank in our community and the next-closest bank was probably 8, 9 miles to Indianola," Holland said. "I was thinking, 'What are we going to do?' "

A year after the pandemic plunged the U.S. economy into it worst crisis since the Great Depression, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is largely satisfied with the central bank's rapid-fire response.

"I liken it to Dunkirk," Powell said in an interview with NPR's Morning Edition, referring to the emergency rescue of British and Allied forces from France in World War II. "It was time to get in the boats and get the people, not to check the inspection records and things like that. Just get in the boats and go."

Updated at 10 a.m. ET

The economy is staging a strong but still incomplete recovery, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is set to tell Congress on Tuesday, exactly a year after stock markets hit their lowest level during the pandemic.

The economy is now "much improved," Powell is set to say according to prepared remarks, thanks to "swift and vigorous action" by Congress and the central bank to avoid an even more crippling downturn.

The Federal Reserve expects the U.S. economy to grow faster this year, although it still expects only a modest uptick in inflation.

The central bank issued its new forecast at the end of a two-day meeting. It comes as the public health outlook is improving and after Congress approved trillions of dollars in federal spending to help the country recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

For Nancy Cordeiro, a plan by the Biden administration to provide her family with a monthly allowance is more than just about money that she sorely needs. It's also about restoring something she has lost at times during the pandemic: her pride.

"When you have to go to the food bank, there's a lot of pride at stake and people are suffering from that," Cordeiro said. "They're getting depressed over that, because all that weight is on them, just like it is on me."

The U.S. economy is about to get a shot of its own.

The $1.9 trillion relief package passed by Congress on Wednesday is expected to give a substantial boost to the world's largest economy once it's signed by President Biden, putting more money in people's pockets just as an improving pandemic outlook opens new avenues for them to spend it.

Hiring picked up steam in February as a winter wave of coronavirus infections eased and consumers spent more freely.

U.S. employers added 379,000 jobs in February, while the unemployment rate dipped to 6.2%.

For Americans factories, business is good these days. Almost too good.

Unexpectedly strong demand for furniture, appliances and other manufactured goods is providing a windfall to many of the country's industries.

But as factory gears spin faster to meet the surging demand, a big headache is emerging: Supply chains are getting stretched more than ever, and critical components are proving a lot harder to procure.

Take the word of Drew Greenblatt, the president of Marlin Steel in Baltimore.

"The economy is snapping back in a big way," Greenblatt said.

For President Biden, it's a $1.9 trillion gamble.

If successful, his "American Rescue Plan" will help struggling families and businesses weather an unprecedented pandemic and provide a boost to a badly dented economy. It's also broadly popular with voters.

Critics, however, worry it will be end up being a poorly targeted plan that squanders trillions in borrowed money in ways that will do little to improve the nation's long-term economic outlook.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell warned on Tuesday the United States has a "long way" to go to return to full employment, even as he expressed cautious optimism that the economy will recover from the pandemic this year.

Congressional forecasters are projecting a federal deficit of $2.3 trillion this fiscal year, even without the additional $1.9 trillion in spending that President Biden has proposed.

That would mean a smaller deficit than the record $3.1 trillion in 2020, according to the forecast issued by the Congressional Budget Office on Thursday. But at $2.3 trillion, the budget gap in 2021 would still top 10% of the overall U.S. economy — making it the second-largest deficit since World War II.

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