Scott Horsley

Updated April 2, 2021 at 12:34 PM ET

Hiring accelerated last month as U.S. employers added 916,000 workers to their payrolls. It was the largest job gain since August, fueled in part by an improving public health outlook and a new round of $1,400 relief payments.

President Biden cheered the encouraging jobs report during remarks to reporters at the White House.

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Millions of people are at risk of losing electricity in the coming weeks because of unpaid power bills, even as Congress has authorized billions of dollars in supplemental relief.

Overdue power bills have mushroomed during the pandemic as job losses mounted and residential power consumption soared.

Many states restrict power shutoffs during the winter. But with those safeguards expiring in more than a dozen states this month, the threat of widespread power interruption is growing.

Updated March 26, 2021 at 11:29 AM ET

Updated at 11:29 a.m.

George Holland, the mayor of Moorhead, Miss., remembers the feeling when he heard that Regions Bank was closing its branch in his small, rural town a few years ago.

"That was actually the only bank in our community and the next-closest bank was probably 8, 9 miles to Indianola," Holland said. "I was thinking, 'What are we going to do?' "

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A year after the pandemic plunged the U.S. economy into it worst crisis since the Great Depression, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is largely satisfied with the central bank's rapid-fire response.

"I liken it to Dunkirk," Powell said in an interview with NPR's Morning Edition, referring to the emergency rescue of British and Allied forces from France in World War II. "It was time to get in the boats and get the people, not to check the inspection records and things like that. Just get in the boats and go."

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Earlier this year, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen urged lawmakers to act big and pass the president's $1.9 trillion rescue plan. They did, and today Yellen was back on Capitol Hill to say thanks.

Updated at 10 a.m. ET

The economy is staging a strong but still incomplete recovery, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is set to tell Congress on Tuesday, exactly a year after stock markets hit their lowest level during the pandemic.

The economy is now "much improved," Powell is set to say according to prepared remarks, thanks to "swift and vigorous action" by Congress and the central bank to avoid an even more crippling downturn.

The Federal Reserve expects the U.S. economy to grow faster this year, although it still expects only a modest uptick in inflation.

The central bank issued its new forecast at the end of a two-day meeting. It comes as the public health outlook is improving and after Congress approved trillions of dollars in federal spending to help the country recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

Consumers put their pocketbooks on ice last month after a spending spree in January.

Retail sales fell 3% in February, according to the Commerce Department. That's the sharpest decline since the early months of the pandemic, and a much steeper drop than economists had expected.

For Nancy Cordeiro, a plan by the Biden administration to provide her family with a monthly allowance is more than just about money that she sorely needs. It's also about restoring something she has lost at times during the pandemic: her pride.

"When you have to go to the food bank, there's a lot of pride at stake and people are suffering from that," Cordeiro said. "They're getting depressed over that, because all that weight is on them, just like it is on me."

The U.S. economy is about to get a shot of its own.

The $1.9 trillion relief package passed by Congress on Wednesday is expected to give a substantial boost to the world's largest economy once it's signed by President Biden, putting more money in people's pockets just as an improving pandemic outlook opens new avenues for them to spend it.

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Hiring picked up steam in February as a winter wave of coronavirus infections eased and consumers spent more freely.

U.S. employers added 379,000 jobs in February, while the unemployment rate dipped to 6.2%.

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For Americans factories, business is good these days. Almost too good.

Unexpectedly strong demand for furniture, appliances and other manufactured goods is providing a windfall to many of the country's industries.

But as factory gears spin faster to meet the surging demand, a big headache is emerging: Supply chains are getting stretched more than ever, and critical components are proving a lot harder to procure.

Take the word of Drew Greenblatt, the president of Marlin Steel in Baltimore.

"The economy is snapping back in a big way," Greenblatt said.

For President Biden, it's a $1.9 trillion gamble.

If successful, his "American Rescue Plan" will help struggling families and businesses weather an unprecedented pandemic and provide a boost to a badly dented economy. It's also broadly popular with voters.

Critics, however, worry it will be end up being a poorly targeted plan that squanders trillions in borrowed money in ways that will do little to improve the nation's long-term economic outlook.

When the school district in Pima, Ariz., got its first round of federal pandemic relief last summer, Superintendent Sean Rickert put it toward the expenses incurred while suddenly shifting classes online at the start of the pandemic.

Now, as some Republicans in Congress question why COVID-19 aid for schools has not yet been spent, Rickert is just learning how much his district will get from a second relief bill approved in December.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell warned on Tuesday the United States has a "long way" to go to return to full employment, even as he expressed cautious optimism that the economy will recover from the pandemic this year.

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Congressional forecasters are projecting a federal deficit of $2.3 trillion this fiscal year, even without the additional $1.9 trillion in spending that President Biden has proposed.

That would mean a smaller deficit than the record $3.1 trillion in 2020, according to the forecast issued by the Congressional Budget Office on Thursday. But at $2.3 trillion, the budget gap in 2021 would still top 10% of the overall U.S. economy — making it the second-largest deficit since World War II.

When Black business owner Jennifer Kelly applied for an emergency loan for small businesses through a major bank last spring, she found herself shut out.

Kelly, who runs a clinical psychology practice outside Atlanta, was not the only one. Businesses owned by Blacks and Latinos were often at the back of the line last year as the government rushed out hundreds of billions of dollars in Paycheck Protection Program loans. The money was intended to help small businesses keep their workers on the payroll during the pandemic.

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It was an apology tour of sorts.

Neera Tanden instantly became one of President Biden's most polarizing Cabinet nominees when she was selected to head the Office of Management and Budget because of sharp-elbowed comments she had made about Republicans while running a left-leaning think tank.

So at her confirmation hearing on Tuesday, Tanden was contrite, apologizing for her remarks. She also promised to work in a bipartisan manner if she's confirmed.

Updated at 9 a.m. ET

Hiring resumed just tepidly last month after a slump in December, as the labor market faces a long climb to recover the millions of jobs lost during the pandemic.

U.S. employers added 49,000 jobs in January, after a revised drop of 227,000 the month before. Unemployment fell to 6.3%, from 6.7% in December, as hundreds of thousands of people left the workforce.

Industries that saw notable job gains in January include business and professional services and finance, but bars and restaurants continued to lose jobs.

Updated at 1:12 p.m. ET

The nation's economic engine slowed considerably in recent months, as it faced off against a winter wave of coronavirus infections.

The Commerce Department reported Thursday that the nation's gross domestic product grew just under 1% in October, November and December — a marked downshift from the three previous months. On an annualized basis, the economy grew 4% in the fourth quarter.

The resurgence in the pandemic likely dealt a major blow to the U.S. economy in the last three months of the year, though it is not expected to have delivered a knockout punch.

Most economists expect fourth-quarter gross domestic product data on Thursday will show a significant slowdown compared to the July to September quarter, when the economy staged a sharp recovery from the early days of the pandemic.

Karen Butcher's son Matthew struggled for years with an addiction to opioids. She's convinced the pandemic made it worse.

The restaurant in Scott County, Ky., where Matthew worked as a bartender closed before the pandemic, and soon other establishments, from restaurants to stores, followed suit as states imposed lockdowns.

"One day you're a bartender and you're serving people and having a great time at it, and then the next day the doors are closed," Butcher recalls. "Then COVID hits. It was the perfect storm."

The Senate quickly confirmed Janet Yellen to be Treasury secretary on Monday, days after she won unanimous backing from both Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee.

Yellen will be the first woman to lead the Treasury Department and will spearhead the Biden administration's response to the coronavirus recession. The Senate confirmed her with an 84-15 vote.

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