economy | KCUR

economy

News coverage of the economy.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

By some measures, the United States' economy is in great shape. President Donald Trump touts record low unemployment as evidence that things have never been better. His argument is bolstered by historic stock market increases over the last year.

And if Esther George has one word to describe her 2020 economic outlook, it would be "positive."

Segment 1: President of Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City optimistic for 2020 but  keeping an eye out for what's ahead

Playing the long game with the economy is a crucial part of Esther George's job as a Federal Reserve Bank president, but she knows she can't lose sight of how people make financial decisions in real-time.  Plus, in an economy that seems to be doing well, George still has to do a balancing act between the positives and pitfalls that exist no matter how well the current situation looks. 

Segment 1: A winning NFL franchise puts money in the pockets of its host economy.

Kansas Citians have more to celebrate than just an exciting season for the Chiefs. One study shows when an NFL team is successful, fans in the home city are happier and more productive. That increased productivity creates an economic impact of up to $100 per capita but don't be calling the Chiefs to collect! 

Frank Morris / KCUR

Lots of people in Kansas City are ramping up for the AFC Championship game on Sunday. If the Chiefs win, they’ll play in the Super Bowl for the first time in 50 years. Some area business are betting on a win, one they hope will trigger a shopping frenzy.

It’s easy to spot team logos around town. Season ticket-holder Greg O’Neal has about a dozen of them on his SUV alone.

“I’ve got six Chiefs flags, I got three Chiefs arrows, Chief’s name and another helmet,” chuckles O’Neal, who’s also wearing a Chiefs cap. “You can see me coming a mile away.”

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — This state capital made national headlines in December when it announced it would pay anyone up to $15,000 to move here and work for local companies in Shawnee County.

With a pilot program called “Choose Topeka,” the city joins a long line of places like Vermont and Tulsa, Oklahoma, that offer cash to new arrivals.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media file photo

A tentative agreement easing trade restrictions with China seems like great news for farmers, who’ve been pummeled by the trade war. Some farmers, though, are skeptical. They worry that ag exports will suffer for years, and they've got history to back them up.

Prices for the corn and soybeans started rising last week, on rumors of a possible trade deal. Good news for Tom Kreisel, who farms near tiny Houstonia, Missouri.

“The last couple of days, they'd been up,” says Kreisel. “But they had took a nosedive before that, so we need to make that back.”

Frank Morris / NPR and KCUR

Trucks and trains aren’t carrying as much as they did just a few months ago, and haulers are cutting back on orders for new trucks and rail cars. Despite this slump, Kansas City’s logistics industry is pushing ahead with an enormous expansion of warehouse space and other regional distribution hubs.

Rail traffic is down substantially from last year. Carloads are down by about 7%. Coal is down more than 14%, and metallic ores and metals are down even more.  

During 2019, the curveballs thrown at farmers began with the partial government shutdown in January, when some U.S. Department of Agriculture agencies were closed. Spring brought a storm system—called a bomb cyclone—that dumped rain on top of frozen fields unable to make use of it, kicking off weeks of flooding exacerbated by additional precipitation. Planting ran later than usual and some farmers never got a cash crop into certain saturated fields.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Black residents of Kansas City are still "separate and unequal," according to the latest report from the Urban League of Greater Kansas City.

The 2019 State of Black Kansas City, from the Urban League in collaboration with local law, policy, health and education experts, measures the racial gap in areas such as economics, criminal justice and education. Based on statistical analyses of factors such as the median net worth for black versus white households and the rate of homeownership, the report found the equality index for black Kansas Citians is only 73% of their white counterparts.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

Over the last five years, almost 15,000 workers disappeared from the Kansas workforce.

During the same timeframe, the state is growing economically, with a recent monthly report showing 14,000 jobs created in the last year and unemployment at 3.3%. That’s below the national rate. 

Despite the good news, Kansas officials see a long-term challenge: having enough employees to fill the state’s jobs, especially in high-demand careers like nursing and accounting.

Segment 1: The most reliable source of qualified teachers now produces half the candidates it once did.

The number of undergraduate education degrees awarded every year peaked in the early 1970s at almost 194,000. Today that number is less than 92,000. Two college deans discuss the challenges of bringing future teachers into the education major, meeting the need for special education and bilingual educators, and graduating teachers more reflective of today's diverse communities.

File photo / Kansas City Business Journal

Cerner Corp. will lay off 255 of its U.S. employees in an effort to boost operating margins to 20% by the end of the year. Workers will be notified throughout the day on Wednesday, a spokeswoman said.

Seg. 1: Technology In Prison | Seg. 2: Unidentified

Aug 19, 2019

Segment 1: A KU research team got a grant to bring technology training to women's prisons.

The population of women in U.S. prisons has risen 834 percent over the past 40 years. More than half of the women now in prison are mothers of children under 18. After interruptions in their educations and resumes, technology training could help them begin planning for re-entry.

Segment 1: Creating a winning bid for major events

The U.S. Gymnastics Championship this weekend and the NFL Draft in 2023— what do they have in common? They will both take place in Kansas City, Missouri. Visit KC and the Kansas City Sports Commission played roles in bringing these events to town. The CEOs of both explained a process that can take years and described what they think makes the metro appealing to those looking for a host city. 

Segment 1: The Kansas City Public Library has joined a movement toward eliminating late fees.

Following the announcement that the Kansas City Public Library is no longer charging late fees, we dig into the reasoning behind the decision, as well as the larger movement it's a part of.

Seg. 1: Micro-Apartments | Seg. 2: Dad Jokes Beer

Jun 6, 2019

Segment 1: Affordability of Micro-Apartments

Developers plan to include micro-apartments as an option for "affordable housing" in the Midland building downtown. The plan has inspired an outcry from skeptical Kansas Citians: Is paying $750 for a tiny apartment truly affordable? A housing advocate and a business journalist weigh in.

Segment 1: Why we don't fix things any more, and why that matters.

There's a national movement encouraging people to learn how to fix things as an antidote to consumer waste and excess spending. But fix-it-yourself workshops happening around the country are having trouble getting off the ground in Kansas City. Our guests give the spiels they'd deliver at such workshops, if they did exist here.

Advice For High School Graduates

May 22, 2019

Graduation season is upon us, which means celebration and cliché advice. But a lot of the age-old wisdom doesn't quite ring true in today's changing world. Hear about the helpful and not-so-helpful nuggets doled out to high school seniors. Plus, Kansas Citians share their own tips.

Guests:

Segment 1: Hamilton Mania.

Hamilton is one of Broadway's biggest productions in decades — and it's coming to Kansas City this summer. In this conversation, we tap into the mania surrounding a musical about one of America's lesser-known founding fathers.

Segment 1: Modern Monetary Theory.

A brand of unconventional economics is garnering a lot of attention after being touted by politicians such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders. It's called Modern Monetary Theory (often abreviated MMT) and UMKC is known for it. Why is that, and how will it affect political discourse moving forward?

Bethany Wood / For the Kansas News Service

DODGE CITY — Check out Dodge City.

A new $12 million waterpark. A shiny new craft brewery — not far from the new whiskey distillery. And, yes, that trendy new downtown cafe.

A nearly $6 million addition to Boot Hill Museum just kicked off last fall. That’s about when Dodge City wrapped up $86 million in renovations and expansions to its schools.

Segment 1: There is one month left in the 2019 filing season.

After being told to expect smaller refunds, new IRS data is now showing the average refund is greater than it was at this point in 2018. Two tax experts helped clear the confusion as they discussed withholding changes, eliminated tax breaks, and new caps on itemized deductions. 

Segment 1: What happens to a community without access to a four-year college?

The majority of college freshmen enroll at schools within 50 miles from home. But what if there isn't a four-year university nearby? In this conversation, we take a look at the effects education deserts have on communities and how Dodge City, Kansas, is looking to address theirs.

Chris Neal / For the Kansas News Service

KANSAS CITY — Seventy hours a week got old. Fast. So did working multiple jobs.

So Joseph Cowsert wept tears of joy and relief the day he got word while bathing his baby daughter that UPS was offering him a 40-hour-a-week position in web development.

“It was like a burden lifted off of me,” he said. “I didn’t realize it was weighing so heavily.”

Seg. 1: Boomer Entrepreneurs. Seg. 2: Terry Teachout

Feb 28, 2019

Segment 1: More baby boomers are choosing to open up their own businesses. 

Retirement? Not for these people. Despite the trope of the young, millennial entrepreneur, research shows that people between 55 and 64 make up about a quarter of new entrepreneurs. In this conversation, we talk with an author who's reported on this trend and a 69-year-old businessowner who's living it. 

Segment 1: Teacher pay in Missouri comes in almost dead last compared to the other 50 states.

Missouri places 49th in a study ranking teacher pay state-by-state. In this conversation, we discuss why that is and look into how the issue affects local educators.

Chris Neal / Kansas News Service

Life is expensive. Rent, health care, raising a family, saving for retirement — it adds up. But so does college debt. In fact, the cost of college shot up many times faster than typical U.S. earnings in recent decades.

So, what to do after high school? Here’s what you need to know.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / KCUR/Kansas News Service

TOPEKA — The glittery gold print on Cara Simon’s graduation cap begged — maybe only half-jokingly — for a break: “Can I take a nap now?”

Toilsome college coursework may have kept the Wichita native up at night, but looking for a job won’t. Simon lined one up at an emergency room before even graduating — one of the benefits of earning a nursing degree.

“It’s so versatile,” she said. “You can work in a million different places. You can work in any state. It’s exciting.”

Former Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke compared the national economy to a Looney Tunes character: magically floating in the air for a moment after running off a cliff before inevitably plummeting in 2020.

Segment 1: Decline in history majors raises question: what's the future of our past? 

New data shows a drop in the number of history majors at colleges in the United States. So what does it mean for the future of our history, if there are fewer people studying it?

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