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Weekly Wrap: Immigration and the New York Fed

Fri, 2014-11-21 16:21

Joining Kai to talk about the week's business and economic news is Business Insider's Linette Lopez and Sudeep Reddy of the Wall Street Journal. The big topics this week: Obama's immigration plan, the Fed's relationship with Wall Street and more stimulus in the eurozone and China.

Macy's new target: Millennials

Fri, 2014-11-21 14:42

As Black Friday nears, we're looking at the strategies big brands are making.

“It’s always a fight to the finish as we get through this season. My sensibility is that shoppers are going to go out there and spend like they always do: Load up their credit cards with things that they don’t need," says Teri Agins, author of "Hijacking the Runway"  (2014).

"Of course, retailers will come up with all kinds of gimmicks to get people shopping," Agins says.

In the Black Friday sale game, Macy's stands as a juggernaut, according to Agins. “They are the big Goliath and they really have a big footprint.”

The reason for this success? Millennials, a demographic not typically associated with department stores.

Macy's is targeting 13- to 30-year-olds by teaming up with celebrities to draw shoppers into stores. Celebrity fragrances by Katy Perry, One Direction, Taylor Swift, and even Justin Bieber are offered in Macy's stores around the country.

These celebrity collaborations are meant to create a buzz similar to that which surrounds fast-fashion, and that’s just to get people into the store. Even if the targeted millennials don’t buy the fragrance they walked in for, it’s likely they’ll buy something else.

This upcoming Black Friday will probably be like the ones in the past – long lines, doorbusters and big savings – but the crowd might turn out to be a little younger.

Good at video games? That could land you a job.

Fri, 2014-11-21 11:10

Workplace personality tests are a multi-million-dollar business for the companies that make them. Basically these are screening tools: online tests a candidate takes before they get to the interview stage.  They’re designed to find out what makes you tick. But as they’ve gotten more popular they’ve also come in for criticism – some candidates have even sued, saying the tests discriminate.  

Recently New Yorker Jorli Peña interviewed for a job at a startup out of state. Before the company flew her out to meet with them, she was asked to take a couple of short online tests.  The second test asked her to assess the way others saw her, and how she saw herself. She had to pick from a bunch of adjectives, and spent a few minutes on the task.

Soon the results came back. Peña was shocked.

“I started scanning it and I just thought…this isn’t me,” she says.

Peña, normally an outgoing marketing specialist, was described as ill-at-ease in social situations, formal and reserved. She was afraid she wouldn’t land an interview.  But maybe because she knew the company’s founder, she did. Others have fallen at that first hurdle.

These tests have been around a long time, says Barbara Marder with HR consulting firm Mercer. She says they may be adequate indicators for some jobs, but for others, it may be much more important to look at a candidate’s cognitive makeup.

One way to do that is through gaming. Marder says when someone plays a game, you can see his or her potential through studying what they do during play.

“You’re really figuring out how someone thinks,” she says, “how they make decisions, how they problem solve.”

Her company recently created a prototype 3-D video game for the oil and gas industry. In this game, the candidate has to simulate their role on an offshore oil rig. At one point, an alarm on the rig goes off and the candidate has to work out what caused the alarm and how to respond to the emergency. All the while, their potential employer is judging their performance.

Simulation is one route to an employee’s potential. But there are plenty of other ways games can reveal your strengths and weaknesses, as I found when I began to play a bunch of games designed by a startup called Pymetrics.

One game measures how well I read other people’s emotions just from looking at the expression in their eyes. I have to pick the word that best describes what they’re feeling. It was quite tricky but also fun.

MIT graduate Frida Polli is Pymetrics’ CEO. She says these games are aimed at millennials.  

“We’d like to be the Netflix of careers,” she says. "Where you play the 12 games, maybe at some point we add some additional data about you, and then we really give you a very tailored, very precise and very good set of recommendations for what you could be good at.”

Pymetrics works with candidates to compile profiles based on their play, and lets them know which companies are looking for people like them.  It then tells the companies, "Hey, check this person out – they have the kinds of qualities you’re looking for."

And Polli says these games can help companies diversify their workforce.

“There are a lot of companies in that realm," she says, "but they don’t know exactly how to solve that problem."

She says the algorithms behind the games can help, because they make the platform blind to race and gender.

But perhaps they’re not blind to an aging brain. Some of the games I play have me sweating as the clock ticks down. In one game I barely have time to register the direction of an on-screen arrow before it disappears.

If I’m being judged on this game, I fear for my employment prospects.

Polli says I shouldn’t worry.

“The main point of this is there is no right or wrong,” she insists.

She says I look skeptical, which I do, and assures me she’s totally serious.

Well, my test results did did tell me I was 70 percent skeptical, which I think is quite appropriate for a journalist.

Playing this hiring game may just take a bit of practice for some of us.

The economic impact of Obama's immigration reform

Fri, 2014-11-21 11:00

Stymied by a Congress that has been unable to pass comprehensive immigration reform, President Obama issued a set of executive actions on Thursday.

Its centerpiece is a new program providing protection from deportation and a possible work permit for unauthorized immigrants who have lived in the United States for at least five years who have children who are citizens or have green cards. 

Patrick Oakford at the Center for American Progress says this will impact all the sectors of the economy where unauthorized immigrants work, from construction to restaurants.

Economist Giovanni Peri says work permits will allow workers to apply for higher-wage jobs, and give employers a larger pool of workers.

The White House's Council of Economic Advisors says this could generate an increase in productivity that will boost GDP by 0.2% over the next decade. But that depends on employers and employees alike having confidence that the temporary status will be extended. Kristi Boswell at the American Farm Bureau Federation says it doesn't go far enough. 

Avoiding the 'regulatory capture' trap

Fri, 2014-11-21 11:00

Another day, another Senate hearing on the financial industry.

The man in the hot seat today: New York Fed President William Dudley. He was grilled about something called "regulatory capture," the idea that regulators can be "captured" or overly influenced by the people and companies they're supposed to oversee. Dudley said the banking system is safer now than six years ago, but separately, the Fed has announced a review of its bank supervision programs.

Sid Shapiro, a professor at Wake Forest University, cautions if regulators are too cozy with their charges, banks might get away with things they shouldn’t. Regulatory capture isn’t a problem unique to the Fed, says Dan Carpenter, who studies the regulatory agencies at Harvard. But its impact there can be especially dangerous. Lawrence Baxter,  a professor at Duke University School of Law, says the Fed should be more transparent and draw fewer of its employees from Wall Street. 

The logistics (and costs) of moving an NFL game

Fri, 2014-11-21 11:00

The Buffalo Bills were supposed to play a home game this weekend against the New York Jets, until a snowstorm blew through this week dumping more than six feet of snow.

The NFL has moved the game to Monday night in Detroit. And the Buffalo Bills were scrambling Friday with last-minute travel arrangements, before their departure from their snow-burried hometown earlier this afternoon. 

Next stop, Detroit! ✈️ pic.twitter.com/VAxmmSbZ4D

— Buffalo Bills (@buffalobills) November 21, 2014 The costs of the last-minute change are likely adding up for the Bills: from refunding tickets to short-notice hotel bookings.

In fact, the team is likely paying as much as a 30 percent premium on travel costs, says Kevin Green, director of football operations for the University of Kansas, where sports programs boast big budgets.  

Green says, when traveling, he typically has to account for anywhere from 100 to 170 people between players, coaches, staff and others. Typical travel arrangements are made well in advance, Green says: a year in advance for hotel reservations, several months in advance for flight charters, and a week advance for food preparation. 

And teams have very specific needs. Not just any hotel will do. And not just any food will do. 

“The hotel has to have conference space available for meetings, that typically limits those hotels to Hiltons, Marriotts, traditional business hotels,” Green says. "The food is very specific to individual players, positions. You’re looking for specific cuts of meat, proteins, carbs. That usually has to be ordered a week in advance.”

So, vendors are likely benefiting from the Bills’ sudden venue change. And if fans make sudden travel plans, too, the city of Detroit could see a windfall. 

“We foresee the direct spending to be around $3 million,” says Deanna Majchrzak of the Detroit Convention and Visitors Bureau. “That will benefit our local hotels, restaurants, bars and other retailers.”

The Bureau is basing that figure on an estimate that some 30,000 fans will visit Detroit for the game. In 2010, when Detroit was last host to an unscheduled game, some 46,000 fans showed up to see the Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants play, Majchrzak says.

Professional cuddlers for hire in Portland

Fri, 2014-11-21 11:00

A woman in Portland, Oregon, named Samantha Hess has opened a new business called Cuddle Up to Me. It is, just like it sounds, a professional cuddling establishment.

For $60, Hess says you get "the level of human contact that we want or need in order to be our optimal selves," according to People magazine. The session includes an hour of spooning, hair strokes, hand-holding and an assortment of positions. Hess maintains that her shop is not "adult oriented."

Call it commentary on the lack of human contact in today's society. Call it a ludicrous endeavor.

I call it entrepreneurship. Hess told her local Fox affiliate she's gotten as many as 10,000 emails in the first week. 

Your Wallet: Giving versus getting

Fri, 2014-11-21 09:54

The holidays are a season for giving. Many of you are buying gifts, donating to charity, helping someone, or someone is helping you.

How do you balance helping others with your personal financial needs?

We want to hear your stories.

Send us an email, or reach us on Twitter, @MarketplaceWKND

Coming out at work, in context

Fri, 2014-11-21 09:11

This past week, the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest LGBT rights organization, released its Corporate Equality Index which measures how Fortune 500 companies treat lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees in the workplace.

Things have changed a lot over the 10-plus years the group has released its annual report. Same sex marriage is now legal in more than thirty states, there are more rights for LGBT people in the workplace, and many big businesses have increased their protections for employees, introducing non-discrimination clauses, and partner benefits. This year, 366 Fortune 500 companies got a perfect score on the index, up from only 13 in 2002. 

Deena Fidas, director of Workplace Equality for the HRC, says the change is based in societal shifts and finances. "So many businesses have come to the realization that being an LGBT inclusive employer isn't just the right thing to do, it's actually smart business," she says.

But despite new workplace protections and benefits, "still, a little over half of all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender workers in this country remain closeted on the job," Fidas says, "and so quite literally people are getting married on the weekends and not talking about it come Monday morning." 

In 29 states, there are still no legal protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Legal issues definitely come into play in the decision to be out at work, Fidas says "but it's also the everyday environment." HRC survey responses indicated that LGBT people who aren't out at work feared that they'd make people uncomfortable. 

But staying closeted on the job may have some drawbacks, for LGBT and the companies they work for. Fidas says that people who aren't out at work may be less engaged with their jobs and their colleagues, and less likely to stay with one employer. Not being out at work could also mean fewer opportunities to make friends, or find valuable mentorship. 

Even millennials, typically known for their openness about sexuality, are aren't always out at work. "We find that actually, many of the youngest workers are out to their friends and family, they're out in their school environments, and yet they're going back in the closet when they get their first jobs," Fidas says.

For younger workers, the question to come out is a conundrum: they may feel they lack an established professional background, or be searching for a mentor, and want to keep their orientation private.

"Your mentor is somebody who you can confide in, you can talk about personal struggles," Fidas says, "and this is where we get into a bit of a Catch-22." The people who might most need guidance are often afraid to seek it out. One solution to this issue is something that many businesses are introducing: LGBT and allied affinity groups. "[They] provide a tremendously effective platform for young people to find a mentor," Fidas says. 

Some LGBT people are not just out at work, but out on their resumes. Fidas says that some people choose to come out in a resume because they want to highlight leadership experience that involves an LGBT affiliated group. Others choose to come out on a resume, subtly or explicitly, as a way to communicate their expectations to a potential employer that they are completely accepted at work. 

A recent study from Princeton University shows that things are changing for people who do choose to come out in their resume. While past research indicated that mentioning an LGBT group resulted in hiring and salary discrimination, the latest from Princeton shows that for white men, there's little to no impact, and for black men, coming out on a resume may actually result in more interviews and a higher starting salary. 

Still, there's no single, simple solution. "Bias happens," Fidas says, "whether it's conscious or unconscious."

A lot goes into the decision to come out and be out at work. Fidas says it isn't the right choice for everyone, particularly if their workplace doesn't have a nondiscrimination clause. "It's a conversation," she says.

 

What's with the addiction to subscription boxes?

Fri, 2014-11-21 06:49

The DIY movement notwithstanding, many people are so desperate to shed chores they’ve started outsourcing even frivolous shopping. It’s a situation caused by and, in turn, fueling a big retail trend: subscription boxes.

Even if you think you’ve never heard of subscription boxes, you probably have. Years ago, we knew them as the fruit- or cheese-of-the month club. Now they’ve gone upscale, niche – and run amok. 

There are subscription boxes for vegans and carnivores, for the gluten-free and gluten loaders, for people who can’t get enough ostrich jerky or infinity scarves, for preschoolers who insist on sustainably sourced toys – maybe as many as 500.

At this point in the game – about four years since the launch of Birchbox, the beauty-sample site credited with starting the recent surge – almost any American, and her finicky pet, could survive on boxes alone.

Somehow, a nation that endlessly whines about household clutter, and is so prickly about presents that there’s a registry for every gift-giving event, has started paying strangers to pick out — excuse me, curate — random items and ship said items to their homes.

And on those glum days when the mailbox is empty, junkies can fill the void with box-centric YouTube videos, blogs, reviews and discussion boards.

One theory to explain the phenomenon is that we have too much choice – it’s a relief to let someone else paw through all of the junk for you.  Another is that exhausted working women want a gift every month – even if it’s one they’ve sent, and paid for, themselves. Even if they don’t actually like it.

 Oh, really, I shouldn’t have . . .

Subscribers take their deliveries so seriously that blogs warn of “spoilers” before discussing the contents of a particular box. It’s like learning the gender of your unborn baby, only the reveal involves small-batch pistachios.

Recently, I flirted with a fashion box but luckily the realization that I’d end up schlepping to return clothes I didn’t choose in the first place kicked in before I'd entered my credit card.

But there is one box I’d love: a subscription that takes a box of stuff from your house every month. Call it the disappearing box.

The subscription box that should be

Fri, 2014-11-21 06:49

The DIY movement notwithstanding, many people are so desperate to shed chores they’ve started outsourcing even frivolous shopping. It’s a situation caused by and, in turn, fueling a big retail trend: subscription boxes.

Even if you think you’ve never heard of subscription boxes, you probably have. Years ago we knew them as the fruit- or cheese-of-the month club. Now they’ve gone upscale, niche — and run amok. 

There are subscription boxes for vegans and carnivores, for the gluten-free and gluten loaders, for people who can’t get enough ostrich jerky or infinity scarves, for preschoolers who insist on sustainably-sourced toys—maybe as many as 500.

At this point in the game — about four years since the launch of Birchbox, the beauty-sample site credited with starting the recent surge — almost any American, and her finicky pet, could survive on boxes alone.

Somehow, a nation that endlessly whines about household clutter, and is so prickly about presents that there’s a registry for every gift-giving event, has started paying strangers to pick out — excuse me, curate — random items and ship said items to their homes.

And on those glum days when the mailbox is empty, junkies can fill the void with box-centric YouTube videos, blogs, reviews, and discussion boards.

One theory to explain the phenomenon is that we have too much choice--it’s a relief to let someone else paw through all of the junk for you.  Another is that exhausted working women want a gift every month — even if it’s one they’ve sent, and paid for, themselves. Even if they don’t actually like it.

Oh, really, I shouldn’t have . . .

Subscribers take their deliveries so seriously that blogs warn of “spoilers” before discussing the contents of a particular box. It’s like learning the gender of your unborn baby, only the reveal involves small-batch pistachios.

Recently I flirted with a fashion box, but luckily the realization that I’d end up schlepping to return clothes I didn’t choose in the first place kicked in before I’d entered my credit card.

But there is one box I’d love: a subscription that takes a box of stuff from your house every month. Call it the disappearing box.

Student data and school attendance

Fri, 2014-11-21 06:35

Schools are gathering data on kids, and as student databases grow, so does the ability of technology to predict how or what a kid might do next.

Marketplace's Adriene Hill has been looking at the ways student data is being used to see into the future, and spoke with David Brancaccio to talk about efforts to predict, and change, attendance patterns.

Quiz: Have you seen your kid’s data?

Fri, 2014-11-21 04:36

A majority of states gather data on students over time in longitudinal databases, according to the Data Quality Campaign, but not all of them guarantee parents access to that information.

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Aereo files for Chapter 11 reorganization

Fri, 2014-11-21 04:15

On Friday, the beleaguered television-streaming service Aereo announced it would file for Chapter 11 reorganization. Founder and CEO Chet Kanojia wrote in a blog post that doing so would, "permit Aereo to maximize the value of its business and assets without the extensive cost and distraction of defending drawn out litigation in several courts."

It's been a long journey since the cloud-based television streaming company got started three years ago—Aereo's promise to change the way we watched television was immediately met by a lawsuit brought on by major TV networks.

Aereo celebrated some victories: this year, when ABC's live-stream of the Oscars failed where Aereo's succeeded. But ultimately, a 6-3 vote from the Supreme Court found that the company violated federal copyright law by retransmitting copyrighted programs without paying a fee. In other words, the court didn't buy Aereo's technological argument.

The company was considered a favorite among cord cutters—people who favor streaming services over cable—and there's been a rise in networks jumping on the streaming bandwagon since Aereo lost in the high court. And in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision, there have even been companies looking to take Aereo's place.

 

Gauging the crush of college debt, major by major

Fri, 2014-11-21 03:00
11

Beleaguered TV-streaming company Aereo announced Friday it would file for Chapter 11 reorganization. When asked about his company's lasting impact, CEO and founder of Aereo Chet Kenojia said: “I think we struck a chord in a lot of people’s hearts that there was something arcane about how television was distributed and watched.”

25 percent

That's the portion of earnings college graduates typically devote to paying off student loans in their first year out of school. That number comes from the Hamilton Project, which has just released new data on income and loan payments in the years after college. They found different fields see very different paths to repayment. The New York Times' Upshot is hosting their new debt calculator.

2 hours

That's the window Comcast gives customers waiting for a visit from a technician, though it's not clear how consistently they arrive in that timeframe. The company says their new app, expected out next year, will alert subscribers when service is 30 minutes away. The Verge notes the company might have bigger problems though, as reported in the four-part "Comcast Confessions" series.

25 percent

The portion of the world's sapphire Apple uses in its iPhone screens and camera lenses. The company build a $1 billion facility in Arizona for supplier GT Advanced Technologies to produce the material. But GT completely imploded not long after, finally filing for bankruptcy last month.  The Wall Street Journal takes a deep dive into just what went wrong, and the "promise and peril" of supplying iPhone parts.

6 percent

Research shows that granting legal status to immigrants increases wages by 6 percent, creating spillover benefits for many. That's especially good news for cities like Detroit, where immigration is viewed as one of the few tools available to bring the city's economy back from the brink.

Gauging the crush college debt according to major

Fri, 2014-11-21 03:00
11

Beleaguered TV-streaming company Aereo announced Friday it would file for Chapter 11 reorganization. When asked about his company's lasting impact, CEO and founder of Aereo Chet Kenojia said “I think we struck a chord in a lot of people’s hearts that there was something arcane about how television was distributed and watched.”

25 percent

That's the portion of earnings college graduates typically devote to paying off student loans in their first year out of school. That number comes from the Hamilton Project, which has just released new data on income and loan payments in the years after college. They found different fields see very different paths to repayment. The New York Times' Upshot is hosting their new debt calculator.

2 hours

That's the window Comcast gives customers waiting for a visit from a technician, though it's not clear how consistently they arrive in that timeframe. The company says their new app, expected out next year, will alert subscribers when service is 30 minutes away. The Verge notes the company might have bigger problems though, as reported in the four-part "Comcast Confessions" series.

25 percent

The portion of the world's sapphire Apple uses in its iPhone screens and camera lenses. The company build a $1 billion facility in Arizona for supplier GT Advanced Technologies to produce the material. But GT completely imploded not long after, finally filing for bankruptcy last month.  The Wall Street Journal takes a deep dive into just what went wrong, and the "promise and peril" of supplying iPhone parts.

6 percent

Research shows that granting legal status to immigrants increases wages by 6 percent, creating spillover benefits for many. That's especially good news for cities like Detroit, where immigration is viewed as one of the few tools available to bring the city's economy back from the brink.

PODCAST: Predicting truancy

Fri, 2014-11-21 03:00

First up, China's central bank this morning surprised market players by dropped two key interest rates to stimulate the economy. More on that. Plus, student loan debt has topped $1 trillion, with less than 10 percent in private debt, i.e. not through the federal government. Those private lenders have been pressured to work with struggling borrowers to modify the terms of their loans. Now, it seems Wells Fargo has heard that message. And speaking of students, schools are gathering data on kids, and as student databases grow, so does the ability of technology to predict how or what a kid might do next. We take a look at the ways student data is being used to try to see into the future to predict, and change, school attendance . 

Cutting interest rates on student debt

Fri, 2014-11-21 02:00

Wells Fargo has launched a loan modification program for student loan customers who are delinquent on their loans or facing a new financial hardship.

The bank’s John Rasmussen estimates, 600 to 1,000 borrowers will qualify to have their interest rates cut by the end of 2015. He says the company wants to have long-term relationships with its customers.

Kevin Jacques, a professor at Baldwin Wallace University, says the program makes financial sense, too, since it may mean borrowers will continue to make payments instead of defaulting. 

For more on this story, click the media player above.

Inflating art ... No, not Koons' balloon animals

Fri, 2014-11-21 02:00

In honor of Marketplace's 25th anniversary, we're looking at some of the surprising ways prices have changed over the last quarter century.

Today, we're looking at art. Specifically, the prices of art considered so fine it's worth millions. 

Blake Gopnik is critic-at-large for Artnet News, and a contributor to the New York Times. He joined us to talk about thinking of art as an investment, and how some works have seen their value jump by 700 percent in 25 years.

Click the media player above to hear Blake Gopnik in conversation with Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio.

For troubled Detroit, could immigration help?

Fri, 2014-11-21 02:00

On Thursday evening, President Barack Obama announced a plan to use his executive authority to roll out major reforms to the nation’s immigration policy.

Among other things, the action offers temporary legal status to some 5 millions illegal immigrants, along with an indefinite reprieve from deportation.

In the Midwest, immigrants have been sought after as a way to sustain metro economies winnowed by decades of out-migration.

Earlier this year, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan sent a letter to President Obama to earmark 50,000 visas for workers agreeing to live in Detroit.

Immigration is viewed as one of the few tools available to bring Detroit’s economy back from the brink.

“Immigrants, including those who don’t have a formal education, can really be important to the labor force and to sustaining and revitalizing Detroit neighborhoods,” says Steve Tobocman, Director of Global Detroit, and economic development non-profit.

Tobocman says immigration reform could help reverse the trends of population loss and a rapidly aging workforce. Other outcomes would directly affect future workers.

“It could have a huge impact is on kids,” says Sherrie Kossoudji, an economist at the University Of Michigan School Of Social Work.

“One of the things some of us have always argued is that immigration reform could be on the biggest anti-poverty programs we’ve ever had.”

Kossoudji says granting legal status has been show to increase wages by 6 percent, creating all kinds of spillover benefits for families, consumer spending and tax revenue.

 

 

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