Chris Arnold

NPR correspondent Chris Arnold is based in Boston. His reports are heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazines Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition. He joined NPR in 1996, and was based in San Francisco before moving to Boston in 2001.

In recent years, Arnold has spent much of his time reporting on the financial crisis, its aftermath, and the U.S. economy's ongoing recovery. He has focused on the housing bubble and its collapse. And he's reported on problems within the nation's largest banks that have led to the banks improperly foreclosing on thousands of American homeowners. For this work, Arnold earned a 2011 Edward R. Murrow Award for the special series, The Foreclosure Nightmare. He's also been honored with the Newspaper Guild's 2009 Heywood Broun Award for broadcast journalism. He was chosen by the Scripps Howard Foundation as a finalist for their National Journalism Award, and he won an Excellence in Financial Journalism Award from N.Y. State's society for CPA's.

Arnold is also reporting on the now government-owned mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In a series of stories in partnership with ProPublica, Arnold exposed investments at Freddie Mac that raised serious concerns about a conflict of interest between Fannie and Freddie's massive investment portfolios, and their mission to make home ownership more affordable. The stories generated widespread attention, and led to calls for an investigation by members of Congress.

Arnold was recently honored with a Nieman Journalism Fellowship at Harvard University during the 2012-2013 academic year. He joined a small group of other journalists from the U.S. and abroad and studied, among other things, economics and the future of home ownership in America.

Prior to that, Arnold covered a range of other subjects for NPR – from Katrina recovery in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, to immigrant workers in the fishing industry, to a new kind of table saw that won't cut your fingers off. He traveled to Turin, Italy, for NPR's coverage of the 2006 Winter Olympics. He has also followed the dramatic rise in the numbers of teenagers abusing the powerful and highly addictive painkiller Oxycontin – more than 1 out of 20 high school seniors report using the drug.

In the days and months following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Arnold reported from New York and contributed to the NPR coverage that won the Overseas Press Club and the George Foster Peabody Awards. He chronicled the recovery effort at Ground Zero, focusing on members of the Port Authority Police department, as they struggled with the deaths of 37 officers - the greatest loss of any police department in U.S. history.

Prior to his move to Boston, Arnold traveled the country for NPR doing feature stories on entrepreneurship. His pieces covered technologists, farmers, and family business owners. He also reported on efforts to kindle entrepreneurship in economically disadvantaged areas ranging from inner-city Los Angeles to the Pine Ridge Indian reservation in South Dakota.

Arnold has worked in public radio since 1993. Before joining NPR, he was a freelance reporter working out of San Francisco's NPR Member Station, KQED.

After adding a robust 275,000 new jobs back in January, job growth appears to be slowing. The Labor Department reports that the economy added only 69,000 jobs in May.

Meanwhile, despite the worst recession in generations, there are still countless small business owners plugging away around the country, seeking to expand and hire more employees.

"This year we hired two more technicians, and we hope to hire one more," says Srinivas Konanki, who employs 20 people at Pipette Calibration Services, a laboratory equipment company he owns with his wife.

For generations, owning a home has been a key part of the lifestyle most Americans aspire to. But when the mortgage crisis exploded in 2007, it brought down the U.S. housing market — and the entire economy along with it.

The ensuing recession was an assault on the American dream of homeownership itself. The tidal wave of foreclosures, the crash in home prices and tighter lending standards have left some Americans unable or simply too nervous to buy a house.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

So, why is job growth slowing? Well, part of the problem, as we just heard, appears to be in Europe. The economic turmoil there is looking worse, and that has ripped into the U.S. economy and slowing down hiring. NPR's Chris Arnold has more from Boston.

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A lot of housing news is out this week and all of it is looking surprisingly good. Sales of new and older homes both saw gains. And two reports showed prices rising.

NPR's Chris Arnold has more.

CHRIS ARNOLD, BYLINE: The question is: Can this last? And some people who've studied housing for decades think that maybe it can.

William Weaton is an economist at MIT.

This week, the U.S. Census Bureau announced that in the first quarter of 2012, the American homeownership rate hit its lowest level in 15 years. During the housing boom, millions more Americans bought homes, bumping the rate to nearly 70 percent. Now, that buying spree has been replaced with millions of foreclosures, and most of those gains have been lost.

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Later this week, we get some key data to help judge the state of the nation's housing market. There are some early signs of recovery, but home prices are still falling in many areas, as NPR's Chris Arnold reports.

CHRIS ARNOLD, BYLINE: Tomorrow, we'll get the latest word on home prices from what's called the S&P Case-Shiller index. That keeps showing price declines in many areas. Though those price drops have been leveling off, so things definitely aren't as bad as they were.

The housing market has a new frontier — turning foreclosed homes into rental properties. Some big-time investors are starting to buy up thousands of homes to turn into rentals. That might help shore up home prices. But some housing advocates are nervous.

For decades, most single-family homes available for rent have been owned by mom-and-pop landlords. Sometimes it's the nice old guy up the street who owns a couple of rental homes, and some even offer advice on the Internet.

Hundreds of thousands of homeowners facing foreclosure might get help by having the amount they owe reduced by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

This is a hot topic in Washington, D.C., with many Democrats pushing for these so-called "principal reductions" to try to help the housing market. On Tuesday, a top federal regulator came a step closer to allowing the move.

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When you think of cutting-edge technology, power tools don't generally come to mind. Take the table saw: Many woodworkers are using 30-year-old saws in their wood shops and, among the major tool companies, there hasn't been much innovation since those decades-old tools came out.

But more and more inventors are trying to make these saws safer — and David Butler is one of them. At his home in Cape Cod, Mass., Butler flips on the fluorescent lights in his basement turned wood shop.

The two most powerful entities in the housing market — Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — could be on the verge of a significant change regarding foreclosures. NPR and ProPublica have learned that both firms have concluded that giving homeowners a big break on their mortgages would make good financial sense in many cases.

The stock market hit some major milestones this week: The Standard & Poor's 500 index reached its highest level in more than three years, the Dow Jones industrial average settled in above 13,000 — up about 24 percent since early October — and the Nasdaq rose to its highest level in 11 years. Still, the Federal Reserve has been warning not to get too excited about where the economy is headed next.

David Kotok, chairman and chief investment officer at Cumberland Advisors, says there are a bunch of reason for stocks to be rising.

When Greg Smith quit his job at Goldman Sachs, he slammed his former employer in a blistering newspaper essay. People don't often quit with such a public display of vitriol. But when they do, it certainly gets attention.

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On a Wednesday, it's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

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And I'm Renee Montagne.

Here's the good economic news: Employers have been hiring more quickly than the experts predicted.

INSKEEP: The bad economic news is that experts still are not sure why employers are hiring so quickly. While the U.S. economy is growing, economists are not sure it is growing quickly enough to justify the many jobs created in recent months.

Apple has about 47,000 workers in the U.S. That's not a huge amount for such a profitable and influential company. Now the tech giant is saying it has actually created about 10 times that many jobs indirectly.

Some economists are skeptical of the claim. And the move comes as Apple is facing increased criticism and scrutiny over labor practices at factories it outsources to in China.

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News of the foreclosure settlement spread in Washington, just as the Senate Banking Committee was holding a hearing on the housing market.

NPR's Chris Arnold reports.

CHRIS ARNOLD, BYLINE: Details were still emerging as the hearing began. And senators wanted to know would this deal do anything meaningful to help homeowners and the housing market.

SENATOR ROBERT MENENDEZ: Do you think the $25 billion state/federal foreclosure settlement is a good deal? Do you think that that's the right amount?

A federal Inspector General's office confirmed Wednesday it is looking into Freddie Mac investments that act as bets against homeowners being able to refinance.

In addition, U.S. senators are expected to probe Freddie Mac's investment practices at a hearing on Capitol Hill on Thursday.

Freddie Mac, based in northern Virginia, is the taxpayer-owned mortgage giant whose public mission is to make homeownership more affordable for Americans.

Sen. Robert Casey, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, sent a list of questions about Freddie Mac's controversial trades to the mortgage giant's regulator, highlighting how much remains unknown even after a flurry of statements from the regulator.

Freddie Mac, a taxpayer-owned mortgage company, is supposed to make homeownership easier. One thing that makes owning a home more affordable is getting a cheaper mortgage.

But Freddie Mac has invested billions of dollars betting that U.S. homeowners won't be able to refinance their mortgages at today's lower rates, according to an investigation by NPR and ProPublica, an independent, nonprofit newsroom.

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Small business owners say they're getting more optimistic about the economy, and about their own prospects. That's according to a survey by the National Federation of Independent Businesses, an influential business group. And this is among several recent reports suggesting the economy is continuing to improve.

NPR's Chris Arnold has more.

CHRIS ARNOLD, BYLINE: Small businesses are getting more confident. And that's a good sign, says John Silvia, the chief economist at Wells Fargo.

Every year, thousands of Americans suffer severe injuries using the saws. But after a series of reports by NPR, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has started crafting new safety rules for table saws.

This month, consumer confidence jumped to its highest level since April, a sign that the U.S. economy is starting to mend. But the housing market isn't going along yet with this cheerier mood: Home prices were down 3.4 percent for the year as of October, according to a new report released Tuesday.

If you're unemployed, it can be painfully clear when you don't have the right skills to land a good job.

With unemployment at 8.6 percent, upwards of 13 million Americans are without a job and looking for work. A recent NPR/Kaiser Family Foundation poll surveyed hundreds of long-term unemployed and underemployed people, asking whether they thought they had the skills required to find a job.

When it comes to taxes, the field of Republican presidential candidates is unified: Keep them low and certainly don't raise them.

In both his runs for the White House, Mitt Romney has hewed to this Republican line. But whether he cut or actually raised taxes as governor of Massachusetts is a subject for debate.

All politicians like to talk about cutting taxes. But at the state level during tough economic times, many end up cutting spending while raising taxes because they have to balance their budgets.

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The Federal Housing Administration today issues its annual report to Congress. A Wharton School professor is warning the FHA's problems are worse than the agency is letting on. The professor predicts that taxpayers will have to provide another multi billion dollar bailout if the economy doesn't improve soon.

Federal regulators have announced the start of a nationwide review of foreclosures by the nation's largest banks. The goal is to reach homeowners who've been treated unfairly or who lost their house when they shouldn't have.

Banks have started mailing out letters to upwards of 4 million homeowners. The regulators have ordered the banks to find people who have suffered financial harm due to the banks' mistakes, and to offer "remediation."

The U.S. economy hit an important milestone last week: Gross domestic product, the sum of all goods and services produced in the country, returned to pre-recession levels. But the gains were made with millions fewer workers. Part of the reason is technology, as computers and machines continue to replace humans.

We used to think about machines taking over mundane jobs, like twisting a screw into a toaster on an assembly line over and over again. But more recently, technology is eliminating higher-skill jobs.

President Obama's home refinancing plan seeks to let a million or more American homeowners save money on their mortgages, even if those loans are underwater. But the plan announced Monday is not a new idea: A pair of economists at Columbia University — Chris Mayer and Glenn Hubbard — have been proposing a similar measure for years.

Home prices across the U.S. have dropped 30 percent from their peaks, a downturn that has sapped trillions of dollars in wealth from Americans. Not surprisingly, it's a hot topic for presidential candidates this campaign season. But so far, new ideas about how to fix the crisis have been scarce.

On Monday, President Obama is visiting Nevada, where he's expected to announce his administration's latest proposals on housing. The state is at the epicenter of the downturn, with the latest reports showing home prices and sales numbers continuing to slip.

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