Scott Horsley

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Oil prices keep climbing, supply chains still tangled - and that's keeping inflation at its highest level in more than a dozen years. The Labor Department said this morning that consumer prices rose 5.4% during the 12 months ending in September. Price hikes accelerated in just the last month. NPR's Scott Horsley joins us. Scott, that is a long list of bummer items. Let's start with energy. Crude oil prices have risen sharply, and that's causing gas to rise. What's going on?

Updated October 13, 2021 at 8:42 AM ET

Here's another unexpected example of how supply chains have been upended by the pandemic: Glass bottles used for everything from vinegar to pasta sauces are getting tied up in their own bottlenecks. That's driving prices higher, when you can get the bottles at all.

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Three U.S.-based economists will share this year's Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for their innovative work with "natural experiments" – events or policy changes in real life that allow researchers to analyze their impact on society.

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Three economists are sharing this year's Nobel Prize for their work on so-called natural experiments, including how changes in the minimum wage affect the labor market. NPR's Scott Horsley is here with details. Hey, Scott.

Updated October 8, 2021 at 10:59 AM ET

A few months ago, forecasters thought September would be a banner month for hiring.

Schools would reopen, freeing parents to go back to work. Supplemental unemployment benefits that some employers blamed for keeping workers on the sidelines would expire. Most importantly, widespread vaccinations would put the pandemic in the rearview mirror.

It hasn't exactly worked out that way.

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Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned lawmakers Tuesday that the federal government could run short of cash to pay its bills by Oct. 18 unless Congress acts quickly to increase the government's borrowing authority.

The warning, at an appearance before the Senate Banking Committee, comes amid a standoff in Congress over the so-called debt ceiling. Senate Republicans blocked a measure to increase or suspend the debt ceiling on Monday.

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Updated September 22, 2021 at 4:46 PM ET

Federal Reserve policymakers now think inflation will run hotter than previously expected this year, but the central bank still believes price hikes will moderate in 2022 as pandemic pressures fade.

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Nicole Wolter runs a factory in Wauconda, Ill., that makes gears and pulleys used in a variety of industrial equipment. She has plenty of orders, but she's straining to get all the parts she needs – and that's creating trouble across the supply chain.

"I'm getting phone calls of 'Hey, you're holding up a $5 million machine,'" says Wolter, adding that customers sometimes offer to pay for overtime in her factory or next-day air delivery. "I think there's just that air of desperation."

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Updated September 14, 2021 at 8:48 AM ET

Prices for beef, pork and chicken have surged during the pandemic, and the Biden administration believes it knows who's partly behind it: a handful of big meatpacking companies that control most of the country's supply.

Beef prices alone jumped 12.2% over the last year, according to new consumer inflation data on Tuesday, making it one of the costliest items in the surging bills that consumers face today at the grocery store.

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Hiring slowed sharply in August as a new surge in coronavirus infections slammed the brakes on the economic recovery.

U.S. employers added just 235,000 jobs last month, a sharp slowdown from the torrid pace of hiring in June and July.

"The labor market recovery has downshifted," said Nela Richardson, chief economist for the payroll processing company ADP. "The U.S. economy is facing increasing headwinds as the pandemic wears on and the delta variant creates uncertainty."

The unemployment rate fell to 5.2% in August from 5.4% in July.

Updated September 6, 2021 at 10:56 AM ET

Emergency unemployment benefits expire nationwide on Monday, ending an important safety-net program that millions of Americans have been relying on during the pandemic.

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Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said on Friday the U.S. continues to recover from the pandemic recession, and that progress could allow the central bank to dial back its extraordinary efforts to prop up the economy later this year.

Powell cautioned, however, that the recovery remains uneven and unpredictable, and said the Fed will continue to monitor incoming data and adjust its policies as needed.

Like a lot of employers, Dean Burrows is looking for help these days.

Many of the experienced machinists at Gear Motions, the company Burrows runs in Syracuse, N.Y., took early retirement during the pandemic. And finding replacements has not been easy.

"We're not just competing against other manufacturers," Burrows says. "We're competing against the McDonalds, the Amazons. So it becomes challenging to try to position yourself as a company that people want to come to work for."

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Updated August 11, 2021 at 8:59 AM ET

A lot of workers are getting wage hikes this year as employers compete for scarce labor. But it's not all good news for workers, or for the economy: Some businesses are raising prices to offset the wage hikes, contributing to surging inflation and eroding some of the benefits from that higher pay.

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Updated August 6, 2021 at 8:56 AM ET

At the Wheat Penny Oven and Bar in Dayton, Ohio, demand for pizza and craft cocktails has never been stronger, but staffing shortages have temporarily forced the restaurant to close on Sundays and Mondays.

"Not everybody wanted to come back," says co-owner Liz Valenti. "People that had been in this industry for five, 10, 15 years, made the decision not to come back to hospitality. They've moved on to other areas."

Bob Sinner, a specialty soybean producer in North Dakota, has a major problem on his hands: He has plenty of beans, but he's struggling to ship them to his customers overseas, and his deliveries are running at least a month and a half behind schedule.

"We've had customers in Asia that have had to stop their operations waiting for supply," Sinner says. "Our farmers need to get their storage facilities emptied because we have a new crop that's coming in September, October. We have to get this product moving."

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