Business & Education

Business & education news

While the job market remains sluggish, temporary work is one area that's done very well in the economic recovery. Companies are keeping their temps longer and are even using them to fill professional and high-ranking positions.

The average daily number of temporary workers employed during the first quarter of 2012 was more than 2.5 million. That's up from a low of 2.1 million in early 2009, according to the American Staffing Association.

This fall, the U.S. Navy will contract three Cold War-era aircraft carriers — the USS Forrestal, the USS Saratoga and the USS Constellation — for scrapping. Often called "supercarriers" owing to their massive size, the ships contain nearly 60,000 tons of steel and other metal each.

All three carriers are likely to be sent to the landlocked city of Brownsville, Texas, to be ripped apart.

Ford Motor Co. intends to prove that good things come in small packages — really small packages. The company has taken engine downsizing to a new level with its new three-cylinder EcoBoost engine, which has been introduced in Europe and is set to hit the U.S. market next year.

The EcoBoost offers more power than many conventional four-cylinder engines, with fuel economy numbers a hybrid could envy. Early fans are calling it a modern "little engine that could," and Ford is betting that American customers are ready to embrace a three-cylinder engine.

Apple reported its financial results for the quarter ended June 30, and depending how you look at it, they're either amazing or disappointing.

The company says it made $8.8 billion in profits over the course of three months. That's more than enough to buy every share of Alcoa, the global aluminum giant, which was worth just under $8.6 billion when the stock market closed this afternoon.

President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney have been trading attacks over the issue of American jobs being moved overseas.

The president has pounded Romney for the investments made by his former firm Bain Capital in the 1990s. Not to be outdone, the Romney campaign has suggested most of the money from the president's stimulus program went to create jobs overseas.

Corn Crop Hit Hard as Much of Alabama in Drought

Jul 21, 2012
photo of scorched corn
andypowe11 / Flickr


Almost 90 percent of Alabama is under drought conditions and for 59 percent of the state the drought is moderate to exceptional.

The U.S. Weather Service's drought monitor shows conditions are the driest in the farming heavy southeast and eastern sections of the state and is threatening crops that need lots of moisture.

Judge Orders Birmingham to Cooperate with the State

Jul 21, 2012


A Jefferson County Circuit judge has ordered Birmingham school officials to not interfere with the state school board's efforts to take over the finances of the city's schools.

After a hearing on Friday, Circuit Judge Elisabeth French ordered school board members not to interfere with decisions of state Superintendent Tommy Bice to ensure city schools open for the fall in a timely manner. The judge also ordered board members to make sure Bice and his staff have access to school system records and computers.

LIBOR Spotlight Shifts To U.S. Regulators

Jul 21, 2012



There's another dimension to that unfolding LIBOR scandal which cost Barclays, the British bank, its CEO and $450 million in fines after it was revealed that the bank had been manipulating international lending rates. Attention has shifted to why U.S. financial regulators, who knew about the rate rigging, didn't move to stop it more swiftly.

We're going to put that question to Robert Smith, correspondent for NPR's Planet Money. He joins us from New York. Robert, thanks for being with us.


Alabama Jobless Rate Up to 7.8 percent in June

Jul 20, 2012

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama's unemployment rate rose to 7.8 percent in June, an increase that state officials are calling seasonal.

The Alabama Department of Industrial Relations released the state's jobless rate on Friday. It was up four-tenths of a percent from May's unemployment rate of 7.4 percent, but it's still well below the jobless rate from a year ago.

Mine Project Gets Tax Breaks from Tuscaloosa Co.

Jul 20, 2012
coal in transport bins
Arnoldius / Wikimedia Commons

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP)  An underground coal mine project to be developed over the next six years has been granted significant tax incentives. The Tuscaloosa News reports Hoover-based Walter Energy has been granted about $25 million in tax abatements by the Tuscaloosa County Industrial Development Authority for the $1.2 billion project. The development will touch four Alabama counties, but most will be in northern Tuscaloosa County, where the mine will be located.

Birmingham School Board Sued by B.O.E & Attorney General

Jul 20, 2012

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Attorney General Luther Strange and the Alabama Board of Education have filed a lawsuit against the Birmingham's school board and its members.

Strange, the state school board and State Superintendent of Education Thomas Bice filed the lawsuit Friday.

The lawsuit claims Birmingham's school board is in a state of financial and political crisis. The lawsuit asks the court to affirm that Bice and the state school board have complete authority and the responsibility to manage the financial operation for Birmingham's school board.

For Stockton, Calif., Bankruptcy 'Freezes Everything'

Jul 20, 2012

Many cities around the country are faced with growing costs and shrinking revenue. Despite making sweeping cuts, Stockton, California recently became the largest city to file for bankruptcy. Host Michel Martin talks with Stockton Mayor Ann Johnston about how she's managing a city that's operating in the red.

Famed Harlem Entrepreneur Dies

Jul 20, 2012



And today's last word in business is: Sylvia - Sylvia Woods, the name behind soul food haven Sylvia's.


It's a restaurant, and for many, it's much more. The Harlem institution has been around for half a century, but it will never be the same because yesterday, Sylvia Woods died at the age of 86, on the same day New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was due to celebrate her legacy.

GM Retirees Face Friday Pension Deadline

Jul 20, 2012



You've got to escape from your Escape.

Now, today is an important day for more than 40,000 salaried retirees of General Motors. They're facing a major financial decision. This evening marks the deadline for accepting a pension buyout.

Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton explains.

TRACY SAMILTON, BYLINE: The GM retirees have two choices: either take a lump-sum payment - which can range from 400,000 to $800,000 - or their pensions will be shifted from GM's books to the private insurance company Prudential.

Ford Issues Recall

Jul 20, 2012



NPR's business news starts with a recall from Ford.


MONTAGNE: A recall from Ford Motor Company comes with a strong and unusual message. If you own a certain 2013 model of the Ford Escape, the company says stop driving it. Ford issued this warning yesterday and said dealers will come pick up the SUVs from owners and drop off a loaner car.

Six Policies Economists Love (And Politicians Hate)

Jul 19, 2012

Tuesday's show presented the common-sense, no-nonsense Planet Money economic plan — backed by economists of all stripes, but probably toxic to any candidate that might endorse it.

You can still listen to the show, but we've had some requests for a post with our six-step plan spelled out in brief.

So here they are, along with a few words about each of the economists who helped craft it:

A First As A Public Company, Microsoft Reports Quarterly Loss

Jul 19, 2012

Microsoft made a $6.2 billion accounting adjustment this quarter that threw it into negative territory for the first time as a public company, the AP reports.

Microsoft took the charge mostly based on the acquisition of aQuantive, an online advertising company Microsoft acquired in 2007.

As MSNBC reports, the "charge was an acknowledgement that the company's struggling online services division — which lost about half a billion dollars in the previous quarter — is a significant financial drag on the company." Microsoft, remember, is the owner of the search engine Bing.

On Wednesday, investors paid Germany to hold on to their money for a couple years.

That's right: Germany got to borrow more than 4 billion euros (about $5 billion), and instead of Germany paying interest to its lenders, the lenders are paying Germany. This a lot like Citibank paying you a smidgen to carry a balance on your credit card or to take out a loan (without also charging you interest).

There was a 34,000-increase in the number of Americans filing first-time claims for jobless benefits last week, the Employment and Training Administration reports.

It says 386,000 people filed claims, up from 352,000 the week before. "The 4-week moving average was 375,500, a decrease of 1,500 from the previous week's revised average of 377,000."

Birmingham Schools to Consider Layoffs, Demotions

Jul 16, 2012

Birmingham's school board is set to consider proposals by a state intervention team to lay off or demote about 200 people and delay the start of school by three days.

The items are on the agenda for the board's Tuesday meeting.

The layoffs have been considered in the past, but the board rejected them June 26, leading to the Alabama Department of Education taking over the city school district the following day.

How A Bloated Wall Street Can Hurt Growth

Jul 16, 2012

We all know an out-of-control financial sector can cause acute and long-lasting problems, thanks to the recent financial crisis. But is there also a more chronic drag on the economy when the finance crowd gets too thick?

One recent paper (PDF) suggests so, and tries to quantify just how much a bloated financial sector can hurt economic growth.

Yahoo! Confirms Data Breach; 400,000 Passwords At Risk

Jul 12, 2012

Yahoo said today that hackers had stolen and posted a file that contained 400,000 usernames and passwords.

The New York Times reports that those credentials were used not only for Yahoo! services but to services such as Gmail, AOL, Hotmail, Comcast, MSN, SBC Global, Verizon, Bellsouth and

The Times' Bits blog reports:

Alabama court reconsiders prepaid tuition ruling

Jul 11, 2012
BOC / Alabama State Treasury

The Alabama Supreme Court has reopened a lawsuit over whether Alabama's prepaid college tuition program can pay less than full tuition for students.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday told a lower court to look at whether state officials can retroactively apply a new law passed by the Legislature to allow reduced tuition payments. A plan to provide reduced payments was struck down by the Supreme Court in March and then the Legislature passed a law in April to try to save it.

Alabama Public radio news director Pat Duggins reports on today's vote by the University of Alabama board of trustees to name Dr. Guy Bailey, of Texas Tech, as UA's new president. The appointment is a homecoming for Dr. Bailey, who earned a bachelors degree in Tuscaloosa, and then a masters in 1974.

University of Alabama Hires Texas Tech President

Jul 11, 2012

Texas Tech University president Guy Bailey is the new president of the University of Alabama.
   Trustees unanimously approved Bailey's hiring during a meeting in Tuscaloosa on Wednesday. The Montgomery native says he's honored to be returning to his alma mater.
   Search committee chairwoman Karen Brooks says it's a ``bonus'' that Bailey is an Alabama graduate.
   Bailey has been president at Texas Tech since 2008. At Alabama he replaces Robert Witt, who is now chancellor of the three-campus University of Alabama System.

All week long on Alabama Public Radio, the news department is revisiting the people we heard from in the hours and days following the April 27th tornadoes that struck the state a year ago. Last night, the Tuscaloosa city council approved rezoning in the areas hit hard by the storm. Pending a final vote, this will set the city's rebuilding plan into full motion. APR's Pat Duggins takes us to the small town in Kansas which helped pioneer the "green" rebuilding ideas that may take root here.

This week marks one year since the tornadoes that tore through Alabama, killing over two hundred people and disrupting the lives of thousands of families. All week long on Alabama Public Radio, we'll revisit many of the people and places you heard from in the hours and days following the storm. APR news director Pat Duggins has this preview...  

New Republic: The Exile Of John Maynard Keynes

Jul 9, 2012

Robert Skidelsky is John Maynard Keynes's biographer and a member of the British House of Lords.

What ever happened to the TED spread?

Jul 9, 2012

Over the last week or so, we've been watching the scandal over manipulation of LIBOR, perhaps the single most important global interest rate: See Robert Smith's piece on Morning Edition, and Tuesday's podcast.

Raising Minimum Wage: A Help Or Harm?

Jul 8, 2012

Back in 1912, Massachusetts became the first place in America to introduce a minimum wage, but it would take another quarter century before a national minimum wage was set.

President Franklin Roosevelt made it law in 1938, that any hourly worker had to be paid at least 25 cents an hour. It was revolutionary, and very few countries had anything like it.