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There aren't a lot of obscure government board meetings that warrant a watch party, let alone one with a marching band.

But that's how fast-food restaurant workers and their supporters celebrated Wednesday on a blocked-off street in Manhattan, as they watched a state panel recommend a $6.25 increase in their hourly wage, to $15.

Jacqui Gonzalez once spent an hour and a half on the phone helping a customer. The employee enjoys being generous with the online shoe retailer's money, sending gift baskets and thank-you cards to people whose complaints she has solved.

And mostly, she's grateful that she doesn't have a manager to consult in making those decisions.

"We don't have to put someone on hold and ask permission," says the former customer service agent, who is now a tour guide at the company. "We don't have a manager that you need to be transferred to. How refreshing is that?"

You wouldn't expect to pay a local tax when you stream a movie on Netflix, but Chicago has decided that such cloud-based services should be taxed just like tickets for live entertainment.

There was no debate or public hearing over the city's "cloud tax" — a 9 percent tax on streaming entertainment like Netflix and Spotify.

The buzzing phone or ding of an email from the bedside table might be standard these days. But a long-awaited proposal that would increase the number of employees eligible for overtime pay could mean more companies curtailing the use of work email after hours.

When Nicholas Castillo was hired as a bank branch manager several years ago, he was told his $30,000 salary came with expectations.

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Maybe it seems like just yesterday that you were storing away your holiday decorations.

Maybe it actually was yesterday because life gets busy and tasks get put off, and before you know it, half the year is over and you're scrambling to catch up.

So in case you have been too busy to pay close attention, here's what we now know about the just-ended half of this year's economy:

As President Obama promised, a new rule would make 5 million more Americans eligible for overtime pay.

Many workers say it's a welcome change. But businesses say employees could see negative, unintended consequences.

Barrett Zenger has managed a music store in Corpus Christi, Texas, for the past seven years, where he oversees two dozen employees, stocks inventory and fills in for sales clerks who call in sick.

Julie Hamp, Toyota Motor Corp.'s first senior female executive who was appointed head of public relations just weeks ago, has resigned after her arrest for allegedly importing the prescription painkiller oxycodone in violation of the country's narcotics laws.

As cyberattacks continue, analysts are seeing a new pattern: Hackers are focused on stealing personally identifiable information. That includes the security clearances of U.S. intelligence officers, with the reported theft of background information. It also includes information that's less sensitive but far-reaching — like Social Security numbers.

Don't Write Off Paper Just Yet

May 26, 2015

There's a scene in the television series The Office that says all you need to know about the paper industry's image these days. That sad sack of a company Dunder Mifflin is launching an advertising campaign — and just in time, says one of the sad sack employees. Whenever he tells people he works for Dunder Mifflin, they assume the company make mufflers or muffins or mittens, but "frankly all of those sound better than paper, so I let it slide."

For generations of Americans, Detroit was the place where people made things: powerful cars, amazing architecture, beautiful music. But now Detroit is entering a new chapter. After months of often tense and difficult negotiations, Detroit is now formally out of bankruptcy. Millions of dollars of contributions from private foundations and corporations helped the city preserve its acclaimed art collection. A new generation of artists and entrepreneurs, doers and makers is calling Detroit home. So we'd like to ask, what's next? What will drive Detroit's future now?

A new report on diversity in Silicon Valley shows that Asians and Asian-Americans are well-represented in lower-level positions — but, in comparison, severely underrepresented at the management and executive levels at five large, established tech companies.

Ascend, an Asian-American professional organization based in New York, found that although 27 percent of professionals working at those companies are Asian or Asian-American, fewer than 19 percent of managers, and just under 14 percent of executives, are.

The island of Puerto Rico is many things: a tropical paradise, a U.S. territory and an economic mess. After years of deficits, state-owned institutions in Puerto Rico owe investors some $73 billion. That's four times the debt that forced Detroit into bankruptcy two years ago. The bill is now due.

In two new studies, Harvard economist Raj Chetty and his colleagues found that where poor kids grow up has a huge effect on how much money they earn as adults.

In one study, families living in public housing were randomly selected to be eligible for housing vouchers that required them to move to low poverty neighborhoods. Kids whose families received the vouchers grew up to earn significantly more than those whose families remained in public housing.

Eric Spangenberg knows he's too old for Abercrombie and Fitch. He knows as soon as he smells it.

The store's signature fragrance, Fierce, is a mixture of citrus and musk. It's a combination that Spangenberg, 55, says is clearly targeted toward a specific demographic: a young one.

It's called scent marketing — when a business chooses a specific scent to attract customers and boost sales, and it has become widely popular in the last several years, he says.

The U.S. economy added 295,000 jobs last month, according to the Labor Department's monthly survey, and the unemployment rate dropped to 5.5 percent. The latest strong data beat expectations and follow a robust jump the previous month — a sign that the nation's economy is finally picking up steam.

A new government report confirms: Wages and prices are going their separate ways.

This breakup is helping consumers on the rebound from recession.

Fresh evidence of the split came Monday in the Commerce Department's monthly report on personal spending, income and saving. It showed paychecks are fatter, prices are leaner and Americans are saving more.

At 2.5 percent, Lincoln, Neb., has one of the lowest jobless figures in the country. But that's nothing new — the city has ranked at or near the top of the nation, with one of the lowest unemployment rates for years, even during the Great Recession.

But on a recent visit, it's clear that Lincoln is not resting on its laurels. It's working hard at keeping and drawing talent to this city of nearly 300,000.

Fifty years ago, nearly a third of U.S. workers belonged to a union. Today, it's one in 10. But the decline has not been the same for every state. Here is a map showing how union membership has changed across the country.

A few notes on the map:

  • In 1964, the Midwest was full of manufacturing jobs and had the highest concentration of union workers in America. That has changed dramatically — both because the share of jobs in manufacturing has fallen, and because fewer of the manufacturing jobs that remain are held by union workers.

When it comes to marijuana laws, the Justice Department is now treating American Indian tribes the way it treats states that have legalized pot.

The move, announced in December, has inadvertently sparked interest in the marijuana business. While many see dollar signs, others worry about contributing to the impact substance abuse has already had on Indian Country.