Economy

Saying it is concerned that the economy won't be strong enough in coming months to keep adding jobs to the labor market, the Federal Reserve announced this afternoon that is increasing its efforts to give the economy a boost.

And in an unusually specific statement from the central bank, its policymakers said they expect to keep a key short-term interest rate at or near zero percent "as long as the unemployment rate remains above 6.5 percent."

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

The Texas Comptroller has paid the organizers of Austin’s Formula 1 race more than $29 million from the state’s Major Events Trust Fund.

The trust fund uses tax revenues generated by an event to cover expenses related to the event.

“We pay them back $29.3 million because we’re saying, basically, that there’s been an incremental tax increase of $29.3 million so we’re going to let you have that money to pay you back for expenses that you had bringing the event here," Lauren Willis, director of communications for the Texas Comptroller, says.

Lines of communication remain open in an effort to avert the automatic tax hikes and spending cuts known as the "fiscal cliff," according to the White House and House Speaker John Boehner.

If no deal is reached between now and the end of the year, would the consequences be that drastic?

To answer that question, let's imagine it's January and the nation has gone off the "fiscal cliff." You don't really feel any different and things don't look different, either. That's because, according to former congressional budget staffer Stan Collender, the cliff isn't really a cliff.

The unemployment rate dropped to 7.7 percent in November, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says. That's a four-year low.

The economy added 146,000 jobs, beating expectations. Surprisingly the BLS said that Hurricane Sandy "did not substantively impact the national employment and unemployment estimates for November."

The BLS adds that employment increased "in retail trade, professional and business services, and health care."

There were 118,000 jobs added to private employers' payrolls in November, according to the latest ADP National Employment Report.

That's slower growth than in October, when ADP's employment measure grew by 157,000 jobs.

Throughout his first term, some of President Obama's critics said he wasn't a tough enough negotiator. They felt he caved to Republicans too early, too often. Since his re-election, Obama has subtly changed his approach. He's bringing a more aggressive style — but some critics say it's not the best way to find common ground.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner says it's up to congressional Republicans to take the next step in budget talks to avoid the pending automatic spending cuts and tax increases at the end of the year.

Appearing on the Sunday talk shows, Geithner said there's "no path to an agreement" until Republicans are willing to accept higher tax rates on the rich.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner took to the Sunday talk shows to push the Obama administration's plan to avert the "fiscal cliff," saying that while he was optimistic about a deal with Republicans, there would be no agreement without an increase in tax rates for the top 2 percent of income earners.

Most of the news we hear about Mexico these days is about drug-related violence. But it turns out there's another, brighter story there: The country's economy has been growing at a solid pace for the past couple years, driven in large part by solid exports.

Among other things, Mexico is the world's largest exporter of flat-screen TVs. There are a lot of factories just south of the U.S. border, filled with workers putting together televisions. The individual parts come from Asia, but the final assembly is done in Mexico.

Brandon Mulder for KUT News

As of Wednesday afternoon, the interstate Powerball lottery has reached a total of $550 million – the second largest lotto jackpot in history. This amount has caught the eyes (and wallets) of many.

First-time players and regulars alike are dreaming of what they would do with the winnings if they draw the lucky numbers. KUT News spoke with one Powerball player, Abbie Garcia, who had an easy attitude: “When you win the lottery it leaks through your fingers anyway, so I wouldn’t want to be too caught up in trying to hold onto it.”

Many players have practical hopes of quitting their daytime jobs, paying off debts, sending their kids to college, vacationing in Europe, etc. But when it comes to pipe dreams, a half-billion dollar jackpot permits endless fantasizing.

KUT News

Governor Perry announced his intention Tuesday to launch a Skilled Workforce Initiative in Texas to address demand for certified, highly-skilled workers in the manufacturing sector.

The initiative would reduce the time it takes for students to earn vocational certification in certain high-demand fields, such as manufacturing and industrial business. Under the initiative, certification programs will award credit to students who enter the program already possessing some experience and skills necessary for certification.  Backers hope the program will allow students to get certified and begin filling jobs more quickly, while also saving them time and money by allowing them to bypass lessons on subjects they’ve already mastered.

There was a "moderate increase" in American consumers' confidence this month, the private Conference Board just reported.

Its widely watched consumer confidence index rose to 73.7 from 73.1 in October. The index is the highest it has been since February 2008, when the economy had just fallen into recession and was headed down.

A handful of congressional Republicans after finishing their Thanksgiving dinners decided to give anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist the brushoff, saying they wouldn't abide by his "no new taxes" pledge as they work on a budget deal.

Breathless coverage ensued.

"Move over, Grover?" read one headline.

KUT News

Canned food drives are common around the holiday season. But food banks across Texas have placed a few other things a little higher on their wish lists this year.

The Texas Food Bank Network (TFBN) is made up of the state’s 20 food banks. The network says if you’re looking to help this holiday season, a financial gift will go further than an in-kind gift. That’s because food banks can work with corporations and farmers to get more for the money.

"We work with farmers to get them to donate their surplus product. And we can do that by giving them as little as ten cents per pound to help them offset the costs of getting that surplus produce out of the ground and to food banks. We have lots of corporate partnerships with big food retailers. And so we can really turn that dollar or ten dollar contribution into so much more because of the relationships that we have," Celia Cole, TFBN CEO, says.

Horrific is a word that quickly comes to mind about the news from Bangladesh concerning a fire Saturday in a garment factory where clothes were made for retailers around the world, including some in the U.S.

Here's how The Associated Press starts its latest report:

Gray Thursday may become the new Black Friday. Many big retailers have moved up the beginning of their shopping season, traditionally the Friday after Thanksgiving, to Thursday evening.

Brick-and-mortar retailers are feeling pressure from online retailers, which have given consumers an earlier shopping option.

"In the past, online retailers have had Thanksgiving Day all to themselves," says Marshal Cohen, retail analyst with the NPD Group. "And what that means is by the time Black Friday comes around, a lot of consumers have already spent a bunch of money."

Eight days after his re-election — with the fiscal cliff looming, questions being raised about the deadly attack on the U.S.

The post-election negotiations over taxes, the economy and the so-called fiscal cliff moved into a new phase this afternoon when President Obama stepped up to a microphone at the White House to lay out his latest thoughts about what needs to be done.

In many ways, this words were echoes from the hard-fought campaign.

www.flickr.com/Jellaluna

There used to be a stigma attached to living at home into one’s twenties and thirties – but not so much these days.

Blame it on rising housing prices, or dwindling employment opportunities for grads – but nowadays, young adults between the ages of 25 to 34 are feeling more comfortable about moving back in with their parents.

According to a recent Pew Research Center report on the so-called “boomerang generation,” three out of 10 young adults have moved back home in recent years, thanks to a weak economy. 

The good news concerning multi-generational households is that it looks like all parties are benefiting from the trend. Of the 2,048 adults surveyed nationwide, 48 percent have reported paying rent to their parents and 89 percent say they help with household expenses, like utilities.

Joy Diaz, KUT News

Update: Oct. 25, 2012 at 9 a.m.:

After airing this story on Monday, listeners have been wondering what happened to the Yount family.  The first thing was that a listener drove by the parking lot where they were and gave them a cell phone.  Others have called asking for ways in which they can help.  KUT now has a way to get in touch with the Younts.  If you have any interest in helping them, you can contact KUT.

Original Story posted on KUT.org Oct. 23, 2012 at 5:30 a.m.:

The city of Miami claims to have taken almost half of its homeless population off the streets in the last 10 years. In Austin, where homeless services are stretched to the limit, the City Council is looking for new solutions. Last night, council members met with officials from Miami. The challenges of one local homeless family that is struggling on the streets show how complex the problem can be.

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