As the U.S. economy continues to recover, it has been getting some help from an unexpected place. After decades of massive job losses, manufacturing firms have been steadily creating jobs — many of them well-paying. One particularly bright spot is a new generation of high-tech manufacturers.
As the volume of online orders surged, some retailers and package delivery companies were unable to fulfill promises to deliver gifts by Christmas. UPS acknowledged it was overwhelmed by all the late traffic. In response to complaints, Amazon says it is offering gift cards and refunds for shipping charges.
McDonald's has decided to shut down a website aimed at providing work and life advice to its employees after it was reported that it had urged workers not to eat the very fast food they are hired to produce.
The Oak Brook, Ill.-based McDonald's said Thursday that information on its McResources Line site had been taken out of context thus generating "unwarranted scrutiny and inappropriate commentary," according to a McDonald's spokeswoman.
Just as last week's figures may been distorted by temporary factors related to the holiday season that made things look worse than they really are, the word Thursday that there's been a sharp drop in claims for unemployment insurance needs to be accompanied by the same sort of caveat.
"Amazon and UPS said Thursday they would offer refunds to customers who did not receive their Christmas orders on time, after a surge in last-minute online shopping caught the shipping giant off guard."
In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, economic growth has been slowing this year. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has proposed an ambitious plan to lure large-scale foreign investment. But details of his plan remain under wraps. Small businesses make up the vast majority of companies in the West Bank.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
NPR's Emily Harris has this profiles of one new one.
EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: Before opening a cafe, Palestinian Tariq el-Ayyan worked on documentary films.
Southwest Airlines finished last in on-time arrivals in October — the last month for which statistics are available. According to the Department of Transportation, Southwest's on-time arrival rate was 78.8 percent. It was the second month in a row the airline came in at the back of the pack.
The underground passageway goes from the city of Shenzhen to Hong Kong. It's outfitted with concrete walls, interior lighting and rail tracks, presumably intended to transport goods. Chinese authorities believe a gang intended to use the tunnel to smuggle cell phones and other electronics to Hong Kong — which has lower tariffs than the mainland.
Now NPR's Zoe Chase, from our Planet Money Team, reminds us about one industry that played a big role in NAFTA's passage: men's underwear.
ZOE CHACE, BYLINE: Now you're used to the labels: made in Mexico, made in China, made in Bangladesh. But back in the '80s, when they were first talking about NAFTA, about half of American clothing was made in America, by people like this.
BERTHA MARR: Graduated from the eighth grade, then went straight on in to working at Fruit of the Loom.
The North American Free Trade Agreement, known as NAFTA, turns 20 next week. Hailed as a boon for regional trade, it had some undesirable effects. It hastened a trend away from small farmers, and speeded illegal immigration to the U.S.
Earnings are skyrocketing at drug stores — Walgreens alone saw its earnings grow nearly 70 percent in the last quarter. Drug stores no longer handle just prescriptions and selected sundries. Big chains now compete with grocery stores and sandwich shops. Consumers are also shopping there for holiday gifts.
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel. And now, the latest in our series Number of the Year. We're taking numbers and exploring what they tell us about the year that was 2013. Today, NPR's Yuki Noguchi reports on the number 13. That is the estimated percentage of how much home prices have risen this year.
Six brand new Challenger corporate jets sit on a showroom floor waiting to be picked up here at the Bombardier Aerospace plant on the outskirts of Montreal. Manager Frank Richie watches as technicians polish the gleaming aircraft and make last-minute adjustments. Each one is personalized, from the leather trim inside to the fancy paint job on its exterior.
Through a side door, you enter an enormous assembly line for more than a dozen other Challenger jets. The factory floor spans nearly 900,000 square feet.
The economist Nariman Behravesh puts out an economic forecast every year. And he's predicting the U.S. economy will do better in 2014, which will help of the unemployed and also the long-term unemployed. He spoke to my colleague Steve Inskeep.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
The U.S. unemployment rate has gone down to 7 percent in the year that's just ending. Where is it heading next?
Originally published on Tue December 24, 2013 2:25 pm
It's not every day that the Food and Drug Administration approves a drug three months ahead of schedule. Or approves a pill that could take the place of injections. Or gives the OK to a medicine named for the CEO who started a company to help her sick daughter.
If you're selling food in Germany, "natural" is good. It's a place that distrusts technological manipulation of what we eat.
Witness, for example, a 500-year-old law that allows beer-makers to use only three ingredients: water, barley and hops. The law has since been loosened slightly, but many brewers continue to abide by it for marketing reasons.
We're going to take a close look, now, at the human cost when an industry shuts down. Oregon has kept detailed records on what happened to thousands of people who lost their jobs when the state's RV manufacturing industry imploded during the recession. Since then, many workers dropped from middle wage to low wage earners, a trend playing out across the United States. Some fared even worse. NPR's Kelly McEvers when to Oregon to meet the people behind the numbers.
BRADLEY WARING: Entering Junction City, 5,460 people.
OK. Our last word in business today - what else: Reindeer.
From Dasher to Prancer, Vixen to Cupid, and of course, Rudolph - all of Santa's reindeer have gotten the green light from the Agriculture Department to enter U.S. territory. It's very important. The USDA granted, quote, Mr. S. Claus a special livestock permit. And in the spirit of Christmas, the department even waived the normal application fees and disease testing requirement for his reindeer.
Something caught our eye in the current issue of The Atlantic. Liza Mundy writes this: Paternity leave makes men more involved at home, women more involved at work, and workplaces friendlier for all parents. It turns out the stigma associated with men who take extended leave when a baby is born is disappearing in some places.
And Liza Mundy, thanks for coming on the program. We appreciate the time.
NPR's business news begins with a legal bullseye on Target.
OK. More than a dozen customers have now filed lawsuits against the retail giant. This is after Target's security was breached and information from nearly 40 million credit and debit cards were stolen.
NPR's Sonari Glinton reports that the company is in full defense mode.
SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: Target has offered credit monitoring to its consumers. It's taken to every social medium to get out its story. That's while the first lawsuits have begun to poor in.
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene with Steve Inskeep. There's a lot of last-minute shopping going on today. And that goes for health insurance, too. Yesterday was supposed to be the deadline to sign up on the government's new insurance website for coverage that begins January first.
This past year, many of the best known technology firms were actively designing and building new corporate offices. It's the first time Silicon Valley giants like Apple, Google and Facebook have done so from the ground up. The same is true for Amazon, which is building in Seattle.
All of these projects are still in their early stages, but perhaps the most talked about and architecturally ambitious project that broke ground this year is the Apple headquarters building in Cupertino, Calif. It was a project near and dear to the late Steve Jobs.
It was reported that some 40 million people may have been victims of a hacking spree at Target recently. What should people who may have been in that group do now to protect themselves and their accounts? Robert Siegel speaks with Mark Rasch, a security expert and former Department of Justice cyber crime prosecutor, for more advice for those who may have been affected.
Here's a number for you: 725. That's the minimum hourly wage in the United States, as set by the federal government. It hasn't budged in four-and-a-half years. President Obama is pushing to increase it. Some state and local governments are doing that on their own. As 2013 draws to a close, we're hearing about the year in numbers
Today, NPR's Scott Horsley on 725.
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: 725 is a number that Mary Coleman knows all too well.
MARY COLEMAN: I work at Popeye's here in Milwaukee. I make $7.25 an hour.