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Cardiff Garcia

Economists looking for an indication of what the future holds keep a close eye on the jobs market. Heidi Shierholz is the director of policy at the Economic Policy Institute. She says there are three things in particular that she monitors: the quits rate, temporary employment, and average weekly hours.

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We've been pulling out of a recession for so long now that a lot of people are wondering whether we're on the brink of going back in.

There's no easy way to tell, but there's an Indicator the Conference Board uses, called the Leading Economic Index. It's kind of like the dashboard on a car, with ten dials and gauges flickering away that the Conference Board economists use to tell how the economy is doing overall, and whether we're running into trouble (it is the dismal science, after all).

The Lucky Country

Nov 15, 2018

It seems like every decade or so, in pretty much every part of the world, there's a recession — like it's just part of the bargain. The economy grows as we get better at making stuff, people spend and companies expand. But at some point the growth slows down, unemployment rises. People don't spend as much money because they're starting to pay down their debt. And there's a downturn.

Not in Australia. The Australians haven't seen a recession in 27 years. Today on The Indicator, we find out what makes them so different.

The price of oil had climbed aggressively from the summer of 2017 through the end of last month — but then it started falling. And falling. And falling. The price of Brent crude fell from $86 to about $66 yesterday, an astonishing decline of 23 percent.

What changed? We look at four potential reasons: U.S. output, exemptions to the sanctions on Iran, decelerating global economic growth, and the strengthening U.S. dollar.

There have been four global recessions in roughly the last four decades.

And getting out of the last global recession, right after the financial crisis of 2008, was especially tough. That was such a deep and painful recession, that jump starting the economy again required policies that had not been tried before — in countries across the world, not just in the U.S. But a lot of those policies were politically unpopular, and still are. And it's not clear they can be used again.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

How long do you spend on hold? What kind of discounts do you get? These things could be determined by something called a Customer Lifetime Value score. This score is being used by companies across the economy and the results of those scores can be powerful.

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We love our listeners, and we especially love getting your questions. So today on the show, we answer a few of them — about luxury real estate markets, money and wealth, and our favorite ways to learn about economics and markets.

And as promised on the show, we reference these three articles:

-- Visual Capitalist

-- The Credit Suisse Wealth report

Taxes have been around for thousands of years. Governments want your money! But the relationship between taxes and representative government is particularly interesting. Today, The Indicator talks with financial historian William N. Goetzmann about the relationship between democracy and taxes.

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Friday's jobs report tells the story of a healthy labor market — fast jobs growth, fast wage growth, low unemployment.

But we've been fascinated by stories of what else, besides raising wages and salaries, companies have been doing to bid for workers in an increasingly tightening

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Bianca Beryl is a 9-year-old South Florida listener that came to us with a few interesting questions on Ecuador's currency:

Why did Ecuador change from the sucre to the dollar? Does it affect the money supply in the U.S.? How did they get the dollars there? And why aren't other countries using the U.S. dollar?

We spoke with economist Sebastián Edwards to answer Bianca's questions.

Note: If you have any questions you would like to share with us, email us at indicator@npr.org.

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The movie business is terrifying--most movies lose money. One genre where that does not hold true: horror movies. Today on the show, we look at why horror movies are more likely to make money than any other kind of movies. Part of the reason: fear itself.

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Today on The Indicator, the hedonic treadmill. This is the idea that when something really great happens to us, like winning the lottery, we might be really happy at first. But eventually we just get used to our new life — and we go back to our baseline level of happiness. Researchers in Sweden have concluded that that does happen, but it's only part of the story.

Last week, we got the latest federal deficit numbers for the past fiscal year. And largely because of the big corporate and income tax cuts at the end of 2017, something unusual is happening in the relationship between the economy and the deficit. Cardiff talks with Jared Bernstein about this anomaly.

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Companies estimate that in just six years, humans will be working the same number of hours as machines and algorithms. That means robots will be taking over human jobs in all sorts of sectors, including clerical and legal and other white collar professions. This will usher in a period of great pain and anxiety for humanity, as jobs are lost and people have to retrain to gain new skills in a new reality. But it's not all doom and gloom. Robots will create jobs, too.

Just like Siri and Alexa trying to host a podcast:

Warehouses are expected to hire 450 thousand people this year and next year — an even faster pace of growth than the rest of the labor market. These jobs share some elements with the manufacturing jobs of the past. You can get a job in a warehouse without a college degree, and the pay is better than service jobs that also don't require higher education.

On the other hand, warehouses also hire a lot of temp workers — and the temporary nature of their jobs means the pay is inconsistent, while also making it harder for workers to protest their working conditions.

Unlike most investors, short sellers make money when the value of a company falls. And they don't have a great reputation. They're often regarded as the vultures or hyenas of the financial world, preying on weak companies, and sometimes spreading negative rumors to bring a company down.

But quite often, short sellers perform a necessary task. They have a financial incentive to expose weakness and uncover the truth about a company's status. And when they do so, honestly and transparently, the market benefits.

Tears For Sears

Oct 19, 2018

Sears changed the way Americans buy consumer goods, its dominance of the retail landscape lasting for nearly a century. But the competencies needed to thrive in retail changed a few decades ago, and Sears failed to adapt — losing more and more ground to its rivals Walmart and Amazon. Earlier this week, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Even if a version of the company does emerge from bankruptcy proceedings, the company will likely be a shell of its former self.

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