economy

When admiring such enticing items at the grocery store as an avocado for $1.50, an $8 chocolate bar or fresh wild Alaskan salmon for $20 a pound, you've probably experienced sticker shock.

Indeed, retailers and restaurants offer myriad opportunities to blow your food budget in one fell swoop.

Derek Gavey
Creative Commons

We incarcerate more people in this country than any other country in the world, a shift that started over 30 years ago with punitive sentencing policies that disproportionately targeted non-violent, mostly black, drug offenders caught in President Reagan's war on drugs.

Now, decades later, we're dealing with the fallout. The costs of incarceration are high. Sure, the economic cost is astronomical, about $52 billion dollars in 2011, but the human cost is staggering. 

Phil Roeder / Creative Commons

There's a new anti-corruption task force in Connecticut replete with billboards asking the public to report the corrupt. This hour, we explore the history of corruption and our complicated attitudes toward it. 

Mixed Bag for Gov. Malloy's Budget Proposal

Feb 17, 2015
Sage Ross / Creative Commons

In preparation for his two year state budget proposal, Governor Dannel Malloy has warned Connecticut residents the budget is "tough."

During an interview with WFSB-TV's "Face the State" broadcast on Sunday, Malloy said he will be proposing to reduce the state sales tax from 6.35 percent to 6.2 percent on November 1, then dropping it to 5.95 percent by 2017.

Anyone who has pulled up to a gas station this winter knows oil prices have fallen — down roughly 50 percent since June.

But it's not just oil. Prices for many commodities — grains, metals and other bulk products — have been plunging too.

Here are a few of the changes since many prices peaked in recent years:

- Copper is $2.59 a pound, down from $4.50 in 2011.

With wages still stuck for many Americans, the big drop in gasoline prices is the equivalent of an unexpected cash bonus for the nation's drivers.

The average American household is expected to save $750 this year from lower gas prices, according to the Energy Department.

But Thomas Kinnaman, an economist at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa., says it's instructive to look beyond the word "average."

The Wheelhouse Digs Out

Jan 28, 2015
Gov. Dannel Malloy Office / Twitter

The blizzard has moved on from Connecticut and we're moving on with our regularly scheduled programming. Our weekly news roundtable The Wheelhouse will recap the week's news, from Governor Malloy's response to the storm, to last week's bizarre capitol cafeteria summit regarding the state budget. Also, one Hartford-based company that benefited from a state economic development deal is in trouble.

Cliff / Creative Commons

Connecticut’s urban areas remain among of the most economically productive areas in the world, even while they struggle to recover from the great recession. In fact a new study from the Brookings Institution pegs Hartford as having the second highest economic output in the country, and the fourth highest in the world.

The Global Metro Monitor takes the economic temperature of 300 major cities around the world. Greater Hartford lies fourth in the world in terms of gross domestic product per capita, a measure of how much economic value is produced compared to the size of a metro area, including corporate profits as well as personal incomes. Only Zurich, Oslo and San Jose rank higher. Bridgeport, whose metro area include Fairfield County, lies eighth.

But another story is told by the most recent data on recovery from 2014. 

KOMUnews / Creative Commons

Turns out saving at the pump isn’t great for everyone.

Governor Dannel Malloy will have to order a second round of budget cuts for fiscal year 2015 after the falling price of petroleum has contributed to a $120.9 million deficit, an $89.3 million increase from last month.

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President Obama courted controversy with his own party in the State of the Union by again calling for a key Asian trade deal to be fast-tracked.

The Trans Pacific Partnership is opposed by some senior Democrats, who believe it will lead to a loss of jobs here. 

Obama is asking to be given the authority to negotiate the deal without congressional oversight. Connecticut’s Third District Representative Rosa DeLauro said that’s not acceptable.

As President Obama prepares for the State of the Union address tonight, some Democratic members of Congress are opposing one of the White House’s proposals.

If you've traveled outside the U.S. recently, or sent your U.S.-made products abroad, you've probably noticed that the dollar is getting stronger. The stronger dollar is the sign of a healthier U.S. economy, but its strength has the potential to erode growth.

There are a number of factors behind the dollar's rise, says economist Jens Nordvig, a currency expert at Nomura Securities. The main one is the health of the U.S. economy.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is trying to persuade his fellow OPEC leaders to reduce oil production as the price of crude continues to slide and hurt the Venezuelan economy, which depends on oil for 95 percent of its export revenue.

Maduro was in Qatar this week, seeking billions to shore up his economy.

Noel Hendrickson/Digital Vision / Thinkstock

The price of gas was nearly $4.00 per gallon two years ago. Economists worried the rate would continue to rise, causing financial hardship on those with an already lean budget. What if it went to $5.00 a gallon? Well, those days are long gone.

Gas in Connecticut is around $2.50 a gallon and it's much cheaper elsewhere in the country.

But the higher rate also made people drive less and conserve more, and pushed higher fuel efficiency standards through Congress, nearly doubling the average fuel economy of new cars and trucks by 2025.

Driven by higher tuition fees and tighter state funds, America's public colleges now get more money from their students than from all state sources. That's according to a report by the Government Accountability Office, which says tuition revenue reached 25 percent of the colleges' total in 2012.

The numbers are stark, with the GAO saying that from fiscal years 2003-2012, "state funding decreased by 12 percent overall while median tuition rose 55 percent across all public colleges."

The price for a barrel of U.S. oil benchmark West Texas Intermediate fell below $50 Monday, matching levels seen in the spring of 2009. The drop is linked to both OPEC's boosted production and a stronger dollar.

Oil's latest fall came along with a dip on Wall Street, as the Dow Jones industrial average fell more than 330 points to finish at 17,501 — a drop of 1.86 percent that's also seen as a reaction to new instability in Europe.

PDPhoto.org / wikimedia

WNPR’s Business Desk has a tradition at this time of year of asking our contributors from around the state to reflect on the year just past, and make a few predictions for the future. 

The economy was floored by the polar vortex early on in 2014 — plus, businesses and consumers were still a little dazed by a government shutdown and debt ceiling fight late in 2013.

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, says it all produced an anxious start to the year. "Yeah, a lot of worry, particularly because we had misstepped a few other times during the recovery," he says. "We had these false dawns when we really thought the economy was going to kick into gear and then we kind of fell back into the morass."

Andreas Poike/flickr creative commons

The end of the year is fast approaching, and our contributors on financial matters advise us to keep a close eye on capital gains.

Harriet Jones

Connecticut’s jobs recovery continued strongly in November, with employers adding 4,600 new positions. 

New property tax rates have been set in Springfield, Massachusetts.  For the first time in many years, the rates for both homeowners and business property owners have been reduced, as property values continue to recover from the Great Recession

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Rhode Island's governor-elect Gina Raimondo has picked Connecticut Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor, a fellow Yale alum with experience leading economic-development efforts in New York and New Jersey, as her choice to be Rhode Island's first commerce secretary.

A federal directive will go into effect Saturday making it easier for some Americans to come up with a down payment to buy a house.

The vast majority of home loans are guaranteed by the government-controlled mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The regulator in charge of Fannie and Freddie will allow first-time homebuyers to put down as little as 3 percent.

The Great Recession has widened the wealth gap among white, black and Hispanic Americans, with median net worth in white households increasing to 13 times that for African-Americans, a new Pew Research Center study shows.

The study also shows that from 2007 to 2013, the wealth of white households has grown to 10 times that of Hispanic households.

David Panagore

The effort to turn Hartford's historic Colt gun factory into a national park is continuing. 

A century and a half ago, the Colt complex was where Sam and Elizabeth Colt made the revolver. Now, it's a fundamental part of the country's industrial history, and supporters want to turn it and some of the surrounding neighborhood into a national park.

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WNPR has an experimental radio project and we want you to get involved. The idea is simple: we provide a theme; you call our hotline and tell a story.

UTC Appoints New CFO

Dec 9, 2014
United Technologies

United Technologies is bringing back a long-time executive to serve as chief financial officer.

Akhil Johri succeeds Greg Hayes, who became president and CEO of the conglomerate last month after the unexpected departure of CEO Louis Chenevert. 

Gasoline prices are at their lowest level in four years. The price at the pump in many states is almost a full dollar cheaper than it was last spring.

So some politicians think this is a good time to raise gasoline taxes. Several states are tired of waiting for Congress to fix the federal highway trust fund, so they're considering raising gas taxes themselves to address their crumbling roads.

As 2014 winds down, you might want to save that calendar hanging next to the fridge.

Maybe even frame it.

After so many years of misery for the middle class, 2014 is now looking like the one that finally brought relief. The November jobs report, released Friday by the Labor Department, had blowout numbers showing a surge in job creation, an upturn in work hours and a meaningful boost in wages.

Chion Wolf

I got interested in this topic last year when the Yale Medical School got a $10 million Blavatnik grant for more work in the specific area of  Immunobiology.

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