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Cardiff Garcia

About 800,000 government workers are missing their paychecks, as the impasse between President Trump and leaders of the Democratic Party stretched into its 21st day. Slightly more than half of those workers are expected to keep working without pay because they provide services that are labeled "essential". The rest of the workers have been sent home until the government reopens.

Trade negotiators for China and the U.S. just finished three days of talks. Both sides are under pressure to make a deal, with the U.S. particularly focused on getting a commitment from China to respect the intellectual property of U.S. companies that do business in China.

Today Cardiff talks to Chad Bown of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, and asks what kind of a toll the standoff has taken on the economies of the U.S. and China. What kind of progress did the negotiators make this week? And what can we expect for the rest of the year?

The economy is in good shape, but some people say we could be heading towards a downturn. A number of recession indicators are beginning to flicker, such as a flattened yield curve, strong demand for treasuries and wild swings in the stock market.

The U.S. economy has some very particular tools to deal with recessions, but Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics says the usual monetary and fiscal medicine may not be as effective this time around.

The stock market has been going up and down like a yo-yo for the last few months. And this isn't your typical volatility: 2018 was one of the most volatile years on record for the stock market. But Georgetown economist James Angel says that while the volatility we're experiencing right now might feel scary, it's a lot less worrisome than kind of smooth rise in the market that we saw in 2017. Because that lulled a lot of people: they forgot that the stock market is a speculative arena, and they started to think of corporate shares as a failsafe. And that's never a good thing.

The Phillips Curve measures the relationship between inflation and unemployment. And the Curve predicts that when unemployment is low, inflation tends to rise. Conversely, If unemployment goes up, then inflation should come down. Because then companies don't have to raise wages to compete for workers.

A miniseries called Stockholm premiered last year at the Toronto International Film Festival. In its very first scenes, we learn that a famous Israeli economist named Avishai is a frontrunner to win the Nobel Prize in economics in just five days. But there's one problem: his friends just found him dead at home in his bed, in Tel Aviv.

The Indicator is in Atlanta this week, at the American Economic Association annual conference. So you, dear listener, get a little extra screen time. All this week, we're looking at the ways in which economists are portrayed in television series and in the movies.

Today, we look at shows developed by producer and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin. In the TV show The West Wing, President Jed Bartlet is a Nobel Prize-winning economist. In one memorable rapid-fire exchange between the president and his staff, Bartlet and his staff debate the ups and downs of free trade.

The Indicator team is at the American Economic Association annual conference in Atlanta this week. While we're having fun at the con, we thought we'd share the love and give you all a little extra screen time. We're looking at the ways in which economists are portrayed in television series and in the movies, in a series we're calling Economists on Screen.

All this week, we'll be looking at the ways in which economists are portrayed in television series and in the movies, in a series we're calling Economists on Screen.

Today, we are looking at Crazy Rich Asians, the big hit movie released earlier this year, in which a Chinese-American economist from New York named Rachel Chu visits Singapore with her boyfriend Nick Young.

Life expectancy in the U.S. is down for the second year in a row. One main reason: opioid abuse. But increasingly, companies are stepping up to address the problem, offering treatment plans to workers and supporting employees through treatment.

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H-1B is a work visa used to employ specialty workers in the U.S. It's often referred to as the highly skilled worker visa, because many H-1B holders work as engineers, scientists, and in the tech industry. In 2018, 199,000 people applied for an H-1B visa. That's way more than the 85,000 slots available every year. But that's also way down from 2017, when 236,000 people applied for the H-1B. That's roughly a 16% drop in applications. Today on The Indicator, we talk with William Kerr, a professor at Harvard Business School, about what that could mean for the U.S. economy.

What's your key indicator for 2019? Today we ask a couple of our friends what they'll be watching most closely next year. New York Magazine's Josh Barro says he'll be keeping an eye on oil. Jennifer Doleac from Texas A&M says she'll be monitoring diversity in the economics profession. Very different indicators, but both important for the world in which we live.

Music: "Terrific Time of the Season"

As the year makes the turn into the final furlong, here at The Indicator, we're already looking forward to next year. What should we be looking at? What are the harbingers that will tell us how the economy is doing? Soumaya Keynes of the Economist, Jared Bernstein of The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and Martha Gimbel of the Indeed Hiring Lab give us their takes. And tell us about their favorite Christmas drinks. Peppermint almond milk eggnog, anyone?

Music: "Terrific Time of the Season"

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

One of the great joys of working on The Indicator is our audience. Our listeners write to us all the time, sometimes with compliments, sometimes with criticisms, but always with something interesting to say ... or ask. Today we answer several listener questions. On the severity of economic downturns, on the minimum wage and on the Australian housing market.

Links referenced in this episode:

-- Update: "Scariest jobs chart ever" (Calculated Risk)

Our friends in Hollywood tell us they've started to receive screeners of movies for consideration for awards. So we thought we'd get a jump on awards season by handing out our own prizes. Today on the Indicator, Cardiff and Stacey hand out awards for some of the silliest, most outrageous, or just dumbest stuff people and companies have done this year — plus awards for a couple of just plainly weird trends.

The issue of a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico has been one of President Donald Trump's signature issues. But this isn't the first time the U.S. has talked about a border wall. Back in 2006, President George W. Bush passed the Secure Fence Act. It ordered the building of around 600 miles of wall on the border between the U.S. and Mexico. Economist Melanie Morten and two colleagues examined the economic effects of that wall.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Economic insecurity doesn't get captured by the broader macroeconomic indicators. But if you suddenly get sick, can you afford to go to the doctor? Do you ever worry that you'll run out of money to feed your kids before your next paycheck? Is your paycheck steady enough that you can plan and budget for future expenses? And if you needed to fix your car, would you still have enough money left over to afford that month's rent? These are questions that even people with jobs — maybe even better jobs than they had last year — still struggle to answer.

British politicians were due to vote today on Prime Minister Theresa May's plan to take the UK out of the European Union. In a last minute twist however, May announced a postponement of the parliamentary vote.

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