Scott Horsley

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Oil prices keep climbing, supply chains still tangled - and that's keeping inflation at its highest level in more than a dozen years. The Labor Department said this morning that consumer prices rose 5.4% during the 12 months ending in September. Price hikes accelerated in just the last month. NPR's Scott Horsley joins us. Scott, that is a long list of bummer items. Let's start with energy. Crude oil prices have risen sharply, and that's causing gas to rise. What's going on?

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Three U.S.-based economists will share this year's Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for their innovative work with "natural experiments" – events or policy changes in real life that allow researchers to analyze their impact on society.

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Three economists are sharing this year's Nobel Prize for their work on so-called natural experiments, including how changes in the minimum wage affect the labor market. NPR's Scott Horsley is here with details. Hey, Scott.

Updated October 8, 2021 at 10:59 AM ET

A few months ago, forecasters thought September would be a banner month for hiring.

Schools would reopen, freeing parents to go back to work. Supplemental unemployment benefits that some employers blamed for keeping workers on the sidelines would expire. Most importantly, widespread vaccinations would put the pandemic in the rearview mirror.

It hasn't exactly worked out that way.

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Updated September 14, 2021 at 8:48 AM ET

Prices for beef, pork and chicken have surged during the pandemic, and the Biden administration believes it knows who's partly behind it: a handful of big meatpacking companies that control most of the country's supply.

Beef prices alone jumped 12.2% over the last year, according to new consumer inflation data on Tuesday, making it one of the costliest items in the surging bills that consumers face today at the grocery store.

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Hiring slowed sharply in August as a new surge in coronavirus infections slammed the brakes on the economic recovery.

U.S. employers added just 235,000 jobs last month, a sharp slowdown from the torrid pace of hiring in June and July.

"The labor market recovery has downshifted," said Nela Richardson, chief economist for the payroll processing company ADP. "The U.S. economy is facing increasing headwinds as the pandemic wears on and the delta variant creates uncertainty."

The unemployment rate fell to 5.2% in August from 5.4% in July.

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Like a lot of employers, Dean Burrows is looking for help these days.

Many of the experienced machinists at Gear Motions, the company Burrows runs in Syracuse, N.Y., took early retirement during the pandemic. And finding replacements has not been easy.

"We're not just competing against other manufacturers," Burrows says. "We're competing against the McDonalds, the Amazons. So it becomes challenging to try to position yourself as a company that people want to come to work for."

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Updated August 11, 2021 at 8:59 AM ET

A lot of workers are getting wage hikes this year as employers compete for scarce labor. But it's not all good news for workers, or for the economy: Some businesses are raising prices to offset the wage hikes, contributing to surging inflation and eroding some of the benefits from that higher pay.

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Updated August 6, 2021 at 8:56 AM ET

At the Wheat Penny Oven and Bar in Dayton, Ohio, demand for pizza and craft cocktails has never been stronger, but staffing shortages have temporarily forced the restaurant to close on Sundays and Mondays.

"Not everybody wanted to come back," says co-owner Liz Valenti. "People that had been in this industry for five, 10, 15 years, made the decision not to come back to hospitality. They've moved on to other areas."

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Surging prices for used cars have been a major driver of inflation this year. Now, there are signs those price hikes may be shifting into reverse — and that could provide important clues about where inflation is headed next.

The prices dealers pay for used cars at massive auctions across the country finally dipped in June after hitting record highs in each of the four previous months, according to the Manheim Used Vehicle Value Index.

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The pace of hiring is picking up but not as quickly as many employers would like. The Labor Department said this morning that employers added 850,000 jobs in June. Many businesses say they'd like to hire more folks if they had more applicants.

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