December 6, 2023

Economix: Podcast: Jobs, Economics and a Retail Makeover

After the economic slowdown that showed up in the data for first-quarter G.D.P., Friday’s Labor Department report on jobs and unemployment was nervously awaited.

It wasn’t great news, but it was better than many economists had expected.

Motoko Rich covered the story for The Times, and she says in the Weekend Business podcast that the total number of jobs created in April — 244,000, up from 211,000 in March — suggests that the United States economy is clearly growing, even if at a modest pace. (It grew at only a 1.8 percent in the first quarter, according to the G.D.P. report.)

In April, the unemployment rate moved back up to 9 percent — a painfully high level — from 8.8 percent, and a much faster pace of hiring will be needed to bring the rate down significantly.

It’s quite possible that the American economy’s growth was impeded by what Ben S. Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, has called “transitory” factors, like the supply-chain problems caused by the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan. In that case, Ms. Rich says, there may be faster growth in the United States later in the year.

Still, the economy has a long way to go before it is fully healed from the wounds inflicted in the financial crisis. How long will it take? In a separate conversation, Gregory S. Mankiw, the Harvard economist, confesses that he doesn’t know. In fact, he says, after many years of study, there is much he doesn’t understand about the economy — and that much in his field remains murky. In the Economic View column in Sunday Business, he elaborates on some of the current economic questions for which he sees no clear answers.

In another podcast discussion, David Gillen and Stephanie Clifford chat about the efforts of Richard A. Baker to refurbish Lord Taylor and the Hudson’s Bay Company, two of North America’s grandest retail operations. That is also the subject of a Sunday Business article by Ms. Clifford and Peter Lattman.

Also on the podcast, Gretchen Morgenson talks about Wal-Mart’s executive pay — the focus of her Sunday Business column. The company’s same-store sales have been lagging — and it has removed same-store sales as a criterion for compensation.

You can find specific segments of the podcast at these junctures: the employment picture (30:24); news headlines (23:42); changes at Lord Taylor (20:15); Wal-Mart executive pay (14:11); Gregory Mankiw (8:35); the week ahead (2:21).

As articles discussed in the podcast are published during the weekend, links will be added to this posting.

You can download the program by subscribing from The New York Times’s podcast page or directly from iTunes.

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