Yuki Noguchi

Yuki Noguchi is a correspondent on the Business Desk based out of NPR's headquarters in Washington, DC. Since joining NPR in 2008, she's covered a range of business and economic news, with a special focus on the workplace — anything that affects how and why we work. In recent years she has covered the rise of the contract workforce, the #MeToo movement, the Great Recession, and the subprime housing crisis. In 2011, she covered the earthquake and tsunami in her parents' native Japan. Her coverage of the impact of opioids on workers and their families won a 2019 Gracie Award and received First Place and Best In Show in the radio category from the National Headliner Awards. She also loves featuring offbeat topics, and has eaten insects in service of journalism.

Yuki started her career as a reporter, then an editor, for The Washington Post. She reported on stories mostly about business and technology.

Yuki grew up in St. Louis, inflicts her cooking on her two boys, and has a degree in history from Yale.

It's a pivotal time for LGBTQ people in the workplace. Last week, the Supreme Court heard arguments in cases testing whether people in that community are protected by the country's workplace anti-discrimination laws.

Virtual reality — long touted as the next big thing in tech — hasn't taken off as a consumer product, but employers are embracing it as a more efficient and effective tool for on-the-job training.

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It used to take at least nine months for a patient to schedule an initial appointment with a psychiatrist at Meridian Health Services in Indiana. Now, it takes days, thanks to a program that allows doctors to connect over the Internet with patients, reaching those even in remotest corners of the state.

That has also helped with recruitment. Over the last several years, Meridian's staff of psychiatric specialists, including nurse practitioners, tripled from four to 12.

Yoel Alonso sat in a cell for 10 months before he ever met with a lawyer. His wife had to travel 1,000 miles to visit him at the remote Louisiana facility where he was detained.

Alonso is not imprisoned for committing a crime. In fact, he turned himself in to immigration officials last October, seeking asylum from Cuba. Since then, he has been detained in two rural facilities — first in Louisiana, and now in Adams County, Miss. — where he is faced with daunting legal hurdles. Chief among them: Alonso has met his lawyer only once in his nearly 11 months in federal custody.

Last October, Osny Kidd was arrested outside his Los Angeles apartment and taken to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in Adelanto, Calif.

"I was in handcuffs from feet to waist to arms. I arrived there in chains," Kidd says. Over 76 days, he says, he was strip searched, subject to filthy conditions, denied medications, and briefly placed in solitary confinement.

CEOs have become increasingly outspoken on a variety of political issues — from race relations to LGBTQ rights to higher age restrictions on gun and tobacco sales.

The latest example of this corporate activism came this week, when the leaders of more than 180 businesses — including MAC Cosmetics, electronic payments company Square and clothing-maker Eileen Fisher — signed a letter opposing restrictive abortion laws enacted recently in several states.

Companies with supply chains straddling the U.S. Southern border find themselves in the crosshairs of a new threat after President Trump pledged to raise tariffs on imports from Mexico.

Just last week, business leaders thought that trade disputes with Mexico and Canada were nearly resolved after the Trump administration sought congressional approval of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

Updated at 6:13 p.m. ET

Protesting McDonald's workers were joined by Democratic presidential hopefuls in some of the 13 U.S. cities where employees staged rallies against low pay and the company's handling of alleged sexual harassment.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders joined workers gathered outside the fast-food chain's annual shareholder meeting in a hotel in Dallas via video conference.

Zakary Pashak is a rare breed. His company, Detroit Bikes, is one of the very few American bicycle makers. Most bikes come from China.

At times, Pashak endured ridicule at trade shows. "I'd get kind of surly bike mechanics coming up and telling me that my products stunk. There's definitely a fair bit of attitude in my industry," he says.

But last September, the industry's tune abruptly changed. The first round of U.S. tariffs, or import taxes, upped the cost of Chinese-made bikes by 10%, and companies saw Detroit Bikes as a potential partner.

As they have with so many other industries, apps are shaking up the weight loss business, including big-name companies like Nutrisystem and Weight Watchers. And it's basically because more consumers feel the way Jessica Holloway-Haytcher does.

A couple years ago, she tried diet shakes and supplements. She hated them. She also hired a former NFL player turned personal trainer — but his schedule never matched hers.

She spent $600 a month for programs that weren't sustainable. She says she couldn't keep up with the "astronomical" costs.

Normally, a chief financial officer's job involves poring over balance sheets and bank statements. But in the pot business, the job still bears a lot of similarities to the illicit trade — transporting loads of cash under the watchful eye of big guys carrying lots of guns.

Just ask Tom DiGiovanni.

This chief financial officer and former Ernst & Young accountant leans into an unmarked armored van where there's a metal cage to protect the revenues for his company, Canndescent, from would-be thieves.

U.S. women would have to work an extra 47 days each year to earn as much as men do, says Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund.

"Because U.S. women earn 82 percent of what men earn," she told NPR's Steve Inskeep.

There's a lot happening on the pay equity front.

In New Hampshire, there's no requirement that employers offer paid leave to workers who are caring for newborns or taking care of elderly parents.

Wendy Chase campaigned last fall for a seat in the state House promising to change that — and won.

"This is my first term, and I'm not a politician. I'm just a mom on a mission," she says.

The House is slated to vote Wednesday on a bill that would require background checks on all gun sales — including those that occur online or at gun shows. On Monday, a group of four CEOs sent a letter urging Congress to pass the proposal.

Kelly O'Brien graduated from college six years ago with a political science degree and $28,000 in student loan debt.

"It was stressful, because coming out and having to have a payment of about $217 a month, it just seemed like a lot of money to pay back when you don't really know where you were going to be working, how much you're going to be making," she says.

So when O'Brien got a job at Fidelity Investments a year and a half ago, she was happy to learn she would be eligible to have the company contribute to her student loan payments.

A couple of years ago, Aleta Dignard-Fung got dumped by her boyfriend.

"It was a pretty bad breakup," says the 20-year-old graphic design student, who lives in Las Vegas.

Only later did she remember that he still had the password to her streaming music account.

"Part of getting over someone is being able to listen to your jams in the shower and maybe cry or something like that," says Dignard-Fung, who at the time was into Justin Bieber. "I'd just blast my music in the shower, and then it'd change and it'd start playing Bulgarian folk music because he's Bulgarian."

Student loan debt in the United States has more than doubled over the past decade to about $1.5 trillion, and the Federal Reserve now estimates that it is cutting into millennials' ability to buy homes.

Homeownership rates for people ages 24 to 32 dropped nearly 9 percentage points between 2005 and 2014 — effectively driving down homeownership rates overall. In January, the Fed estimated 20 percent of that decline is attributable to student loan debt.

Even in a normal year, taxes can be complicated and stressful — for taxpayers and IRS workers alike. But this year is shaping up to be worse than usual.

The IRS starts processing returns on Monday, implementing big changes in tax law while having to run on half the staff because of the ongoing government shutdown.

The partial shutdown of the federal government is causing some financial problems for furloughed workers who can't refinance their mortgages or buy homes because lenders can't verify their income. But unpaid federal employees aren't the only ones running into problems.

Libby Anderson, for example, got her final divorce decree on Tuesday. She'd hoped that would mean her ex-husband would finally move out of their Des Moines, Iowa, home, where they've been living separate lives under one roof for eight months.

New York City is testing a new model of workforce training for the future.

In October, the city partnered with the Freelancers Union to open the Freelancers Hub in Brooklyn. It's a kind of communal co-working space that offers classes, tax and legal advice — all at no cost — to the city's growing population of freelance workers.

Its goal: To equip this population with the skills they need, something many experts argue traditional education isn't doing.

U.S. executives have long known the risks of traveling to China with cellphones and laptops. Theft of intellectual property and cyberattacks underlie trade tensions between the two countries.

But executives are more skittish than usual these days.

"Certainly Canadian and American business executives are a bit spooked about traveling to China right now," says Amy Celico of business advisory firm Albright Stonebridge Group.

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Since the #MeToo movement began, myriad business leaders — from media and tech to finance — have resigned amid allegations of sexual harassment, leaving bad morale and problem workplace cultures in their wake.

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How much besides the title is really changing in the North American Free Trade Agreement?

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Once approved, this will be a new dawn for the American auto industry and for the American auto worker.

After working at a call center for two decades, Linda Bradley's job came to an end about a year and a half ago. Since her layoff, she has combed online job sites every day looking for work — without much luck.

Bradley, who is 45 and lives near Columbus, Ohio, began suspecting age discrimination after someone at her union mentioned how recruiters often target online ads at younger candidates. "I thought to myself, 'Oh, that's why I wasn't seeing some of the ads that my daughter has seen on her Facebook,' " she says.

A basic tenet of economics is that when demand for something goes up, so does its cost. So, many economists wonder why today's high demand for workers hasn't translated into bigger increases in pay.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has called this a puzzle that defies a single or easy explanation. It isn't just, for example, that productivity has slowed, making it harder for businesses to justify paying more — though that is certainly a factor.

It's hard enough for employers to find workers to fill open jobs these days, but on top of it, many prospective hires are failing drug tests.

The Belden electric wire factory in Richmond, Ind., is taking a novel approach to both problems: It now offers drug treatment, paid for by the company, to job applicants who fail the drug screen. Those who complete treatment are also promised a job.

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