Scott Horsley | WGLT

Scott Horsley

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.

Horsley spent a decade on the White House beat, covering both the Trump and Obama administrations. Before that, he was a San Diego-based business reporter for NPR, covering fast food, gasoline prices, and the California electricity crunch of 2000. He also reported from the Pentagon during the early phases of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Before joining NPR in 2001, Horsley worked for NPR Member stations in San Diego and Tampa, as well as commercial radio stations in Boston and Concord, New Hampshire. Horsley began his professional career as a production assistant for NPR's Morning Edition.

Horsley earned a bachelor's degree from Harvard University and an MBA from San Diego State University. He lives in Washington, D.C.

The "Phase 1" trade deal with China that President Trump signed this week is unlike any previous free trade agreement. From Trump's point of view, that's the whole point.

"We are righting the wrongs of the past," Trump said Wednesday during a White House signing ceremony, "and delivering a future of economic justice and security for American workers, farmers and families."

Updated at 2:07 p.m. ET

A year and a half after launching his trade war against China, President Trump signed a partial truce on Wednesday.

"We mark more than just an agreement. We mark a sea change in international trade," Trump said during a White House signing ceremony. "At long last, Americans have a government that puts them first."

China is light-years ahead of the United States in doing away with old-fashioned paper money. Now China's central bank is preparing to test a digital currency. And some observers say it could mark the beginning of a new economic arms race, challenging the supremacy of the U.S. dollar.

Already, hundreds of millions of consumers in China have grown used to paying for purchases without cash, using popular smartphone apps such as WeChat and Alipay.

Job growth slowed last month as U.S. employers added just 145,000 jobs. But there was an interesting milestone in Friday's report from the Labor Department. Ninety-five percent of the net jobs added in December went to women.

Updated at 10:53 a.m. ET

Hiring slowed somewhat in December, as U.S. employers added 145,000 jobs. According to the Labor Department, that's down slightly from the three previous months, when employers added an average of 200,000 jobs. But the unemployment rate held steady at 3.5%, matching its lowest level in 50 years.

Kecia Jolley is getting a pay raise this week. But she's still making minimum wage.

Jolley works as a grocery store cashier in Missouri — one of nearly two dozen states that increased their minimum wages on Jan. 1. Economists say those mandatory wage hikes are an important factor boosting pay for workers at the bottom of the income ladder.

Jolley's Friday paycheck will be the first to reflect Missouri's 2020 minimum of $9.45 an hour, up from $8.60 last year.

"I think that I'll be better off," she says. "But I think that it's going to still be a struggle."

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Before we close the books on 2019, we want to look back at some of the business stories that made headlines this year. While some were in the news for weeks — like the trade war or the strike at General Motors, which idled tens of thousands of workers — other stories came and went quickly, but not before leaving a mark on the nation's economy.

Mississippi immigration raids

President Trump has changed his mind about taxing steel and aluminum imports from Brazil.

Trump assured Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in a telephone call that he would not follow through with a tariff threat he'd leveled earlier this month.

Two years ago Friday, Republicans in Congress passed a sweeping tax cut. It was supposed to be a gift-wrapped present to taxpayers and the economy. But in hindsight, it looks more like a costly lump of coal.

Passed on a party-line vote, the tax cut is the signature legislative accomplishment of President Trump's first term. He had campaigned hard for the measure, promising it would boost paychecks for working people.

It took seven decades after World War II to put together a system of free trade around the world. That system has been rocked in just the past seven days.

Last Tuesday, congressional Democrats agreed to an updated trade agreement with Canada and Mexico. Three days later, China agreed to its own, preliminary trade pact with the United States.

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It is a landslide victory for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Conservative Party.

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House Democrats and organized labor have thrown their support behind an updated trade agreement among the U.S., Mexico and Canada. The announcement came on the same day Democrats unveiled articles of impeachment against President Trump.

"This is a day we've all been working to," declared House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. "There is no question, of course, that this trade agreement is much better than NAFTA. But in terms of our work here, it is infinitely better than what was initially proposed by the administration."

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Updated at 2:33 p.m. ET

U.S. employers added a better-than-expected 266,000 jobs in November in a sign the economy continues to power ahead.

The unemployment rate dipped to 3.5%. Job gains for the two previous months were revised up by a total of 41,000.

"It's a tremendous report," said White House economist Tom Philipson. "Obviously, it's something to be very happy about."

Updated at 9:58 a.m. ET

The tariff war has caused a lot of anxiety for business owners and farmers. But how much has it hurt the overall economy?

The stock market got off to a rocky start this week when President Trump launched a new round of tariff threats. But administration loyalists insist concern about the trade war is overblown.

A new Gilded Age has emerged in America — a 21st century version.

The wealth of the top 1% of Americans has grown dramatically in the past four decades, squeezing both the middle class and the poor. This is in sharp contrast to Europe and Asia, where the wealth of the 1% has grown at a more constrained pace.

President Trump is abruptly reimposing tariffs on steel and aluminum imported from Brazil and Argentina.

Trump announced the move in a pair of tweets Monday, saying he was acting in response to "massive devaluation" of the two countries' currencies. Brazil and Argentina had been exempted from Trump's 25% tariff on imported steel and his 10% tariff on imported aluminum since May of last year.

Updated at 10:27 a.m. ET

The Misco speaker company in St. Paul, Minn., is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. But the company's future is uncertain — a result of the trade war between the U.S. and China.

Dan Digre's dad started Misco after serving in World War II.

"He was a B-17 radio operator and came back to the United States and married a woman with a bad radio," Digre says. "Turned out the radio wasn't bad but the speaker was bad, so he started his own speaker repair business."

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President Trump said Friday he supports pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong. But he stopped short of saying he would sign legislation requiring sanctions against China for any crackdown on Hong Kong protesters.

"We have to stand with Hong Kong, but I'm also standing with President Xi," Trump said in an interview on the Fox News program Fox and Friends. "He's a friend of mine."

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So we like to think of ourselves as a highly mobile society, but these days Americans are staying put more than ever before. And this has consequences for families, communities and the economy, as NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

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President Trump says the U.S. and China are close to striking a mini trade agreement. But he offered no guarantees.

In a speech to the Economic Club of New York on Tuesday, Trump downplayed the cost of his trade war, which has hurt farm exports and contributed to a slowdown in the U.S. manufacturing sector.

"The real cost would be if we did nothing," he said.

Trump offered few clues about the status of trade talks except to say, "We're close."

Updated at 12:10 p.m. ET

U.S. employers added 128,000 jobs in October as the unemployment rate inched up to 3.6%.

Friday's report from the Labor Department suggests job growth remains resilient, despite the ongoing trade war and temporary setbacks such as the United Auto Workers strike at General Motors, which was settled a week ago.

Job gains for August and September were also revised upward by a combined 95,000.

Updated at 5:03 p.m. ET

The Federal Reserve cut interest rates by a quarter percentage point Wednesday in an effort to support an economy that continues to tap the brakes.

In announcing the move, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell pointed to weak business investment, which has been a drag on the economy, even as consumer spending has held up relatively well.

"We took this step to help keep the U.S. economy strong in the face of global developments and to provide some insurance against ongoing risks," he said.

Updated at 2:22 p.m. ET

President Trump is counting on a strong economy to help him win reelection next year. But new numbers from the Commerce Department show the economy lost steam during the summer and early fall.

President Trump is renewing his push for U.S. control of Syrian oil. But experts say there's not much oil there, and what there is belongs to the Syrian government.

Still, the idea of controlling the oil fields is one that has long appealed to Trump. And it may provide a rationale for maintaining a U.S. military presence in Syria, reversing the president's promise of a full withdrawal.

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