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The 'Planet Money' team took on a challenge: making an economics podcast for children

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

The team over at Planet Money recently tried out a new idea. What if they made a version of their economics podcast, but for kids, and tried to explain complicated economic terms to them? Erika Beras kicked off this experiment with the idea of labor hoarding.

(SOUNDBITE OF COINS CLINKING)

PAUL: You're listening to Planet Money Is For The Kids from NPR.

ERIKA BERAS, BYLINE: To help me explain what labor hoarding is to kids, I thought it might be helpful to enlist the help of a kid, a third-grader named Paul.

PAUL: I'm 8 years old. I like to watch TV, go outside, catch snakes.

BERAS: And do you like economics?

PAUL: Well, no, not really.

BERAS: So the first thing we're going to talk about is something called labor hoarding.

PAUL: I know what hoarding means. It's, like, taking a bunch of stuff and, like, keeping it. And I kind of know what labor means.

BERAS: Labor is work. And to help me explain labor hoarding, I called up Julia Pollak. She is the chief economist at ZipRecruiter, a website that helps people find work.

JULIA POLLAK: Labor hoarding is when an employer tries to hang on to all of their employees because they value them a lot.

BERAS: People usually value things when they're difficult to get.

POLLAK: And in the past few years, it's actually been very difficult to find people to work at your ice cream store or to work in your school.

BERAS: Or at your toy factory. Imagine you run a very busy toy factory, but then there's an economic downturn - womp, womp - and people aren't buying as many toys. If the factory doesn't need to make as many toys, it doesn't need as many workers. So you could just let those workers go, or you could decide to hoard those jobs, hoard those workers.

What choice would you make?

PAUL: I would keep the workers I had because, whenever things got better, there'd still be people who would want to buy stuff.

BERAS: And if you got rid of the workers you had, then you'd have to, like, go find new people that knew how to make those things.

PAUL: Which would be hard. There might not be a lot of people who know how to make toys very well. And I don't know if there are, but there might not be a lot of people who know how to make toys good.

BERAS: Bingo. Last year was one of the best years for people having jobs ever. Julia says, if some workers tried to leave jobs, employers offered them more money to stay. And there are hints of labor hoarding in jobs where things are slow right now, like with some financial services companies.

POLLAK: A lot of them still have the same number of workers as they did when they were doing 10 times as much business.

BERAS: So the economy is good even though we've been dealing with inflation.

PAUL: Well, I don't like inflation. Inflation is, like, the prices of things going up.

BERAS: Right. Inflation is the rate at which the price of goods and services in the economy increase. And this inflation is when that speed is getting slower.

There is some anecdotal evidence that employers are hoarding workers.

POLLAK: And they're competing, competing, competing and paying more and more and more. That can lead to inflation and delay disinflation.

BERAS: So all this supposed labor hoarding may be a reason inflation won't come down as fast as people would like.

Are you into economics?

PAUL: A little bit now.

BERAS: Cool.

Erika Beras, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF NIKI SONG, "EVERY SUMMERTIME") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Erika Beras
Erika Beras (she/her) is a reporter and host for NPR's Planet Money podcast.

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