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Federal Reserve to start tapering

The Federal Open Market Committee voted in favor of reducing the central bank's monthly bond-buying program.

US jobless rate hits a five-year low

The US jobless rate has fallen to seven percent, a five-year-low that has prompted many economists to carefully watch the Federal Reserve's plans for its bond-buying stimulus.

The shutdown is over (for now). What did it cost the economy?

You're not going to like this, America (and the rest of the world).
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(Flickr Commons)
BOSTON — There's been a lot of chatter the past couple days about what the 16-day US government shutdown will cost the world's largest economy. Standard & Poor's has something rather stunning to say on the matter.
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Gap between US rich and poor reaches record width

The current gap between America's rich and poor is the widest in history, new research reveals, as the country continues to struggle to recover from a crippling economic downturn.

The Fed is more profitable than Apple and Exxon. Combined.

How economic crisis can sometimes be good for the bottom line.
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Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testifies before the Joint Economic Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, October 4, 2011. Bernanke on Tuesday said the United States may face yet more slow jobs growth, as he warned short-term budget cuts and financial turmoil could further threaten the economy. (JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images/Getty Images)

The key to good business writing is the frame.

In other words, how do you take arcane figures and put them into an easy-to-understand context that's smart, useful and memorable?

Our friends at Quartz nailed that task today, with a post titled "The US Fed had a greater profit than Apple and Exxon combined last year."

Catchy headline: check. Interesting topic: check.

The skinny?

The Federal Reserve turned a profit last year of $89 billion dollars, its best year in history.

As Quartz points out, the combined profits of Apple and Exxon — America's two most profitable companies — top a little more than $82 billion.

So how did the Fed do it?

Economic crisis, of course.

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Tons of stuff happened this morning — here's why it's causing the dollar to surge

The US economy is showing a pulse (add those numbers into the latest positive data on construction, cars, and houses) and it's not clear that the Fed has any urgency to act. While the rest of the world is easing, the Fed is seeing a US economy that seems to be hanging on.

US consumer spending up sharply in March

American consumer spending was up in March, according to Commerce Department figures released Monday, in a sign that points to speedier recovery in 2012.

Chart of the day: Obama and jobs

If the 2012 election pivots on the economy, then things are looking up for President Obama.

Conventional wisdom, of course, is often wrong.

But, that said, the current CW goes something like this: the 2012 election is going to be about the US economy. And specifically, about jobs.

If that's indeed the case, then things are looking up for President Obama.

Here's the one chart that makes the case:

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Ahead of tomorrow's jobs report, a look at broader unemployment

A state-by-state look at unemployment, and under-employment.
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People looking for jobs wait in line to speak with potential employers at the Brooklyn Job Fair on April 13, 2011 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. Thousands attended the event which featured nearly 80 employers in a variety of professions. (Spencer Platt/AFP/Getty Images)

Friday is the big day of the week for watchers of the US economy.

The Labor department will release its latest check-up of US unemployment, the most important measure of the world's largest economy. 

Why is this one report so important every month?

People don't spend if they don't have jobs. And the US economy is driven largely by consumer spending. So any economic recovery begins in your wallet, and hence, in the labor market.

It's also important right now in the context of the 2012 presidential election, as President Barack Obama will argue that his administration has done an effective job bringing the US economy back. The GOP candidate, which increasingly appears will be Mitt Romney, will no doubt attack Obama on jobs.

So Friday's report will provide further ammunition to both sides, and give the rest of us another data point to chew over. 

Ahead of that key report, our friends at the Wall Street Journal's Real Time Economics blog have posted this handy interactive map, which offers a state-by-state breakdown of the broader unemployment measure called the U-6 rate.

The U-6 rate includes those Americans who would like a job, but who are so discouraged by the weak labor market conditions that they have dropped out (and are, accordingly, not be counted).

Click here for the interactive map, and see below for the screen grab (the Journal won't let me embed it here, unfortunately).

The darker the blue, the deeper the problems:

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