Illinois Economy

Business and economic news

Eight hundred million Internet users. 1.5 billion mobile phone accounts. Huawei, Alibaba, WeChat. Eight times the STEM graduates the U.S. produces. How did China become such a big player in science and technology?

The Consumer Technology Association brought a scaled-down version of its popular Consumer Electronics Show to Capitol Hill this week in an effort to change the conversation for a minute amid mounting pressure from lawmakers looking to increase regulation of tech companies. With privacy violations, data breaches and concerns over net neutrality regularly making headlines, tech companies used the event to mingle with members of Congress

Condom sales lag as millennials have less sex

May 3, 2019

When Franjo Ivankovic, 24, gets together with friends, they talk about their concerns. They’re worried about jobs, whether they’ll be able to support themselves or someday have and support kids. Those concerns, he said, are having an impact on their sex lives.

“We tend to not only get cautious about having sex but also lose the mood to have sex or socialize in general,” he said.

"Greedy" work and the gender gap

May 3, 2019

The U.S. added 263,000 jobs in April, about 70,000 more than expected. But could the hot jobs market overheat the entire economy? The federal consumer watchdog gives small banks a new level of privacy. Plus, we look the widening gender gap at a time when women are more educated and prepared for demanding, high-level jobs than ever before.

Today's show is sponsored by Indeed and Wasabi Hot Cloud Storage.

Efforts to ban foam containers pick up steam

May 3, 2019

The movement against polystyrene — plastic foam that includes the brand Styrofoam — is growing. Maine this week became the first state to ban the material for single-use food and drink containers. Other states are considering similar measures. Several cities, from New York to Berkeley, California, have bans in place. But how much of a dent in our growing plastic waste problem can these bans make?

Here's why teen unemployment is as high as it is

May 3, 2019

The unemployment rate for teenagers in March was 12.8% compared to the national figure of 3.8%. "They have lower levels of education. And they probably are not going to have the kinds of social and professional networks that many adults use to find jobs," said Martha Ross at the Brookings Institution. Teens also tend to work in jobs with higher turnover, so they're often between jobs.

CES on Capitol Hill

May 3, 2019

Fewer teens are getting jobs, due, in part, to teens not really looking for them. Maine becomes the first state to ban styrofoam, but some say these prohibitions aren't very environmentally friendly. Plus, the Consumer Electronics Show comes to Capitol Hill.

Today's show is sponsored by Indeed and Wasabi Hot Cloud Storage.

Is a four-day work week the future?

May 3, 2019

From the BBC World Service... Investor hunger for vegan burger maker Beyond Meat sent shares soaring on their Wall Street debut. We explore why. Then, Pepsi has backed down from a fight with Indian farmers it accused of illegally growing its registered potatoes. We explain how seed protection got political. Plus, we all want to work less and play more, and the campaign for a four-day working week is gaining traction. We hear from companies that have tried it out and explain why a shorter working week could lead to more inequality.

According to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook is about to become a “privacy-focused” company. He made that loud and clear at this week’s developer’s conference, F8, which some analysts called “privacy-palooza.

Facebook's shift to more secure messaging does not mean it won't be collecting data about you. Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood talks with Carolyn Everson, Facebook’s vice president of global marketing solutions, about the company's ideas about privacy.

Today's show is sponsored by Clickshare and Indeed.

The issue of gender diversity in the workplace is just not limited to the CEO's office or to upper management. Boardrooms are experiencing the same problem. Despite attempts to increase the number of women board directors in recent years, the overall makeup of boardrooms is still mostly male. Why?

What happened to the rom-com?

May 2, 2019

A movie like "Avengers: Endgame" demonstrates how Hollywood has focused its attention in recent years — on big-budget, action-filled blockbusters. That's left less room for an older genre that used to be a Hollywood staple: the romantic comedy. The mid-budget rom-com genre isn't what it once was, and Wesley Morris of the New York Times thinks it's time for that to change.  Morris spoke with Kai Ryssdal about why Hollywood ought to revisit it. 

Why Tesla's raising a new round of cash

May 2, 2019

Tesla just announced a big plan to raise $2.3 billion through by issuing new stock and new bonds. Issuing bonds is another way of borrowing money, something Tesla’s been doing for years. But borrowing more comes at a time when its borrowing costs are getting pretty high.

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Why stock buybacks soared at the end of 2018

May 2, 2019

A report from Moody's says stock buybacks jumped by more than 60% in the second half of last year for 100 of the largest American companies. There are several reasons why the buybacks — a result of the tax cuts corporations received in 2018 — escalated. Moody's says the buyback frenzy could create an expectation on the part of shareholders: that the buybacks will continue even if things go south.

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When trade talks resume in Beijing this week, American officials will be talking about intellectual property theft. But an even more common problem American businesses encounter in China is "trademark squatting," a bad-faith application that could block a company from the country entirely. Today, we take to the high seas of so-called "trademark pirates." Plus: Why stock buybacks are surging and why Hollywood isn't making as many rom-coms. 

Worker productivity is booming. Why is inflation so tame?

May 2, 2019

In the first quarter of the year, the productivity of U.S. workers rose at the fastest pace since 2014: 3.6%. Productivity gains like that are supposed to come along with plenty of inflation. But prices are barely rising. What gives? While American workers are more productive, their additional production isn't translating to additional income. Instead, their employers are reaping the gains — and holding prices steady.

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For American firms that design shoes, handbags or electronics, there is a high chance their trademarks have already been registered in China by someone else.

“These [trademark filers] almost certainly are not using the mark. They're sitting around, waiting to be bought out,” said intellectual property specialist Joe Simone.

A race to the finish: The Kentucky Derby, by the numbers

May 2, 2019

The 145th Kentucky Derby takes place this weekend at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.  

The first event of the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing, the Kentucky Derby is one of the most prestigious horse races in the world. Over the next month, the two other Triple Crown races, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes, will be held in Baltimore, Maryland and Elmont, New York.

Inflation is low, but the Fed chair calls it "transitory." After years of decline, the number of children without health insurance is on the rise. Plus, the condom business isn't what it used to be, so prophylactic makers are getting creative to boost sales.

Today's show is sponsored by Clickshare and Indeed.

The percentage of uninsured children in the U.S. has been in decline for years. But a new study by the University of Minnesota finds that it’s moving upward again. The rate increased across demographic groups, and the study estimates that some 4 million U.S. kids are now uninsured. Declining rates of both Medicare enrollment and private coverage are driving the increase, and experts say the number of children without health insurance is likely to keep growing. 


Fiat Chrysler’s going to stop reporting sales on a monthly basis. Instead, the carmaker will report sales quarterly. General Motors and Ford have already made the change. Automakers started issuing monthly sales figures under pressure from analysts who wanted more transparency, but for Fiat Chrysler, GM and Ford, the practice created short-term incentives that weren’t in the companies’ long-term interest.


People love their pets. And while you may think Fido is your little “fur baby,” big food companies see your pet as a potential money maker. According to the American Pet Products Association, retail sales of pet food have nearly doubled in the U.S. in the last decade, to more than $30 billion.

The food industry is going to the dogs, literally

May 2, 2019

What does the Federal Reserve's decision to leave interest rates untouched mean for inflation? Auto makers shift from releasing monthly sales numbers to quarterly reports. Plus, some big names in "people food" are cashing in the multibillion-dollar pet food industry.

Today's show is sponsored by Clickshare and Indeed.

Doubts over U.K.'s zero carbon emissions target

May 2, 2019

From the BBC World Service... The U.K.'s target for lowering carbon emissions to zero has been criticized as being unobtainable. Ahead of Barclays bank's annual general meeting, we hear that an activist shareholder is asking for the bank to reduce the least profitable part of its business: investing. Plus, we look at the rise of female gambling addicts in a world of online and TV roulette.

Today's show is sponsored by Indeed and Wasabi Hot Cloud Storage.

Perhaps you have heard that tech IPOs are blooming like wildflowers this spring, almost all of them headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area. A lot of early employees of these companies are about to make a bunch of money on their stock options. In a place where the median home price is $830,000, what's all that wealth going to do to housing prices?

Perhaps you have heard that tech initial public offerings are blooming like wildflowers this spring. Lyft, Pinterest, Uber, Zoom, Slack and more are coming, almost all of them headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area, which is already among the least-affordable places in the country. A lot of early employees of these companies are about to make a bunch of money on their stock options.

The messaging war over drug prices

May 1, 2019

One of the few areas in politics with a measure of bipartisan agreement is the issue of prescription drug pricing. The Trump administration and congressional Democrats and Republicans all agree prescription drug prices are too high and that something should be done to slow their rapid rise.

McGraw-Hill and Cengage are hoping to form what would be the second-largest publisher of textbooks in the U.S. market by revenue. The companies say the merger will help the combined company find $300 million in cost savings over the next three years, which they say they plan to invest in digital textbooks.

Instagram gets commercial

May 1, 2019

Instagram, the photo-sharing platform owned by Facebook, is already full of "influencers" like the Kardashians, or model Gigi Hadid, who have huge followings and post about products they use, or get paid to use. It announced yesterday that it's making it possible for users to buy those same products from influencers right in the app, without linking out to separate websites. Instagram has been testing a new in-app checkout system for its advertisers for a couple of months. But what makes us Insta-buy? And what could more retail mean for the future of the social network?

Why it's the "nonfarm" payrolls report

May 1, 2019

The Bureau of Labor Statistics' monthly jobs report is closely watched by economists, business owners, workers and consumers. It tells us how many jobs were added or subtracted from the economy; which occupational sectors are growing, stagnant or shrinking; and the unemployment rate overall and for different demographic subgroups.