Adam Davidson

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Every week, the Department of Labor issues data detailing the number of people who filed for unemployment benefits in the previous week. According to Thursday's report, 385,000 people filed last week, the third weekly increase in a row, and a higher figure than expected. Robert Siegel talks with Adam Davidson about this week's initial claims report. Davidson says the report can help illuminate the vital question of whether the United States has a cyclical or a structural unemployment problem.

One jobs number gets all the attention: The number of jobs lost or gained in the previous month.

That number is important. But focusing too much on the net change in jobs can be misleading. It gives the impression that a job is like a widget — it's something that gets made in a factory somewhere, and that we hope exists forever.

That's not how it works. Even in good economic times ,new jobs are constantly being created and old jobs are constantly being destroyed. (Of course, you do want the number of jobs created to exceed the number of jobs destroyed.)

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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News . I'm Melissa Block.

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And a record close. That's what we've been hearing both today and yesterday as the Dow Jones industrial average climbs upwards.

BLOCK: That may be an ear-grabbing headline after a recession and years of unimpressive growth. But we begin this hour with a different take from Adam Davidson of NPR's Planet Money. Hey, Adam.

ADAM DAVIDSON, BYLINE: Hey, Melissa.

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We're going to dig into some of those policy differences now between Republicans and Democrats. When it comes to reducing the deficit, both sides insist it's time for compromise. But President Obama says tax cuts for the richest Americans must end.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: When it comes to the top two percent, what I'm not going to do is to extend further a tax cut for folks who don't need it.

Peter Frew is one of a tiny number of people left in the United States who can — entirely on his own, using almost no machinery — make a classic bespoke suit. He can measure you, draw a pattern, cut the fabric and then hand-stitch a suit designed to fit your body perfectly.

Frew spent more than a decade as an apprentice for a remarkable tailor in his native Jamaica. He now sells his suits for about $4,000. Since New York is filled with very rich people who see their suits as an essential uniform, Frew has all the orders he can handle.

Every day at 11 a.m., a few big banks tell the British Bankers' Association what it costs them to borrow. Out of that comes LIBOR — the London Interbank Offered Rate, a dull but vital interest rate that underpins trillions of dollars of transactions globally, from home mortgages and personal credit cards to major corporate lending.

For more, see our video, Inside The Matzo Factory, and see Adam Davdson's latest NYT Magazine column

The matzo business may be the most heavily regulated business in the world.

Why are some nations rich and others poor? In a new book called Why Nations Fail, a pair of economists argue that a lot comes down to politics.

To research the book, the authors scoured the world for populations and geographic areas that are identical in all respects save one: they're on different sides of a border.

Here's the secret of the modern dairy farm: The essential high-tech advances aren't in machinery. They're inside the cow.

Take a cow like Claudia. She lives at Fulper Farms, a dairy farm in upstate New Jersey. Claudia is to a cow from the 1930s as a modern Ferrari is to a Model T.

In the 1930s, dairy farmers could get 30 pounds of milk per day from a cow. Claudia produces 75 pounds a day.

To appreciate a cow like Claudia, you have to know where to look.

One day Chris Woehrle decided to finally leave his corporate job and pursue his dream: to become an artisanal food craftsman. And so, every day at home, he'd basically pickle stuff.

"I had a refrigerator full of plastic food buckets that were full of pickles and kimchee and sauerkraut and harissa and salsa and ketchup and mustard and, you know, any kind of craft food you could make," Woehrle says.

Turn on the news on any given day, and you're likely to hear about the Dow Jones industrial average. It is the most frequently checked, and cited, proxy of U.S. economic health. But a lot of people — maybe most — don't even know what it is. It's just the stock prices of 30 big companies, summed up and roughly averaged. That's it.

And what does the daily movement of this number have to do with the lives of most Americans? Not much.

This is the second in a two-part series. Part one is here. For more, see Adam Davidson's cover story in this month's issue of The Atlantic.

For more, see Adam Davidson's cover story in this month's issue of The Atlantic.

Greenville County, South Carolina is where manufacturing's past and future live side by side. This is not a metaphor; it's a visible fact. In South Carolina, and throughout America, factories produce more than ever. Yet in Greenville, there are abandoned textile mills everywhere you look.