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    For Michigan’s Economy, Electric Vehicles Are Promising and Scary

    Last fall, Tiffanie Simmons, a second-generation autoworker, endured a six-week strike at the Ford Motor factory just west of Detroit where she builds Bronco S.U.V.s. That yielded a pay raise of 25 percent over the next four years, easing the pain of reductions that she and other union workers swallowed more than a decade ago.But as Ms. Simmons, 38, contemplates prospects for the American auto industry in the state that invented it, she worries about a new force: the shift toward electric vehicles. She is dismayed that the transition has been championed by President Biden, whose pro-labor credentials are at the heart of his bid for re-election, and who recently gained the endorsement of her union, the United Automobile Workers.The Biden administration has embraced electric vehicles as a means of generating high-paying jobs while cutting emissions. It has dispensed tax credits to encourage consumers to buy electric cars, while limiting the benefits to models that use American-made parts.But autoworkers fixate on the assumption that electric cars — simpler machines than their gas-powered forebears — will require fewer hands to build. They accuse Mr. Biden of jeopardizing their livelihoods.“I was disappointed,” Ms. Simmons said of the president. “We trust you to make sure that Americans are employed.”Tiffanie Simmons works in Wayne, Mich., at a Ford Motor factory that builds Broncos.Nick Hagen for The New York TimesMs. Simmons’s union has endorsed President Biden, but “I was disappointed” in him, she said.Nick Hagen for The New York TimesWe are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    This Arctic Circle Town Expected a Green Energy Boom. Then Came Bidenomics.

    In Mo i Rana, a small Norwegian industrial town on the cusp of the Arctic Circle, a cavernous gray factory sits empty and unfinished in the snowy twilight — a monument to unfulfilled economic hope.The electric battery company Freyr was partway through constructing this hulking facility when the Biden administration’s sweeping climate bill passed in 2022. Perhaps the most significant climate legislation in history, the Inflation Reduction Act promised an estimated $369 billion in tax breaks and grants for clean energy technology over the next decade. Its incentives for battery production within the United States were so generous that they eventually helped prod Freyr to pause its Norway facility and focus on setting up shop in Georgia.The start-up is still raising funds to build the factory as it tries to prove the viability of its key technology, but it has already changed its business registration to the United States.Its pivot was symbolic of a larger global tug of war as countries vie for the firms and technologies that will shape the future of energy. The world has shifted away from decades of emphasizing private competition and has plunged into a new era of competitive industrial policy — one in which nations are offering a mosaic of favorable regulations and public subsidies to try to attract green industries like electric vehicles and storage, solar and hydrogen.Mo i Rana offers a stark example of the competition underway. The industrial town is trying to establish itself as the green energy capital of Norway, so Freyr’s decision to invest elsewhere came as a blow. Local authorities had originally hoped that the factory could attract thousands of employees and new residents to their town of about 20,000 — an enticing promise for a region struggling with an aging population. Instead, Freyr is employing only about 110 people locally at its testing plant focused on technological development.“The Inflation Reduction Act changed everything,” said Ingvild Skogvold, the managing director of Ranaregionen Naeringsforening, a chamber of commerce group in Mo i Rana. She faulted the national government’s response.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    For Biden, a Sunny Economy Could Finally Be a Potential Gain

    Recession fears have eased. Growth and job gains are beating expectations. Inflation is cooling. Consumers are happier. The president is waiting to benefit.A run of strong economic data appears to have finally punctured consumers’ sour mood about the U.S. economy, blasting away recession fears and potentially aiding President Biden in his re-election campaign.Mr. Biden has struggled to sell voters on the positive signs in the economy under his watch, including rapid job gains, low unemployment and the fastest rebound in economic growth from the pandemic recession of any wealthy country.For much of Mr. Biden’s term, forecasters warned of imminent recession. Consumers remained glum, and voters told pollsters they were angry with the president for the other big economic development of his tenure: a surge of inflation that peaked in 2022, with the fastest rate of price growth in four decades.Much of that narrative appears to be changing. After lagging price growth early in Mr. Biden’s term, wages are now rising faster than inflation. The economy grew 3.1 percent from the end of 2022 to the end of 2023, defying expectations, including robust growth at the end of the year. The inflation rate is falling toward historically normal levels. U.S. stock markets are recording record highs.The Federal Reserve, which sharply raised interest rates to tame price growth, signaled this week that it was likely to start cutting rates soon. “This is a good economy,” Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chair, whose central bank is independent from the White House, declared at a news conference this week.The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index has jumped in each of the past two months. A key component of it, in which consumers rate their current economic situations, is closing in on its recent high from February 2020, on the eve of the coronavirus pandemic.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    Trump’s Tariffs Hurt U.S. Jobs but Swayed American Voters, Study Says

    New research finds that former President Donald J. Trump’s tariffs did not bring back U.S. jobs, but voters appeared to reward him for the levies anyway.The sweeping tariffs that former President Donald J. Trump imposed on China and other American trading partners were simultaneously a political success and an economic failure, a new study suggests. That’s because the levies won over voters for the Republican Party even though they did not bring back jobs.The nonpartisan working paper examines monthly data on U.S. employment by industry to find that the tariffs that Mr. Trump placed on foreign metals, washing machines and an array of goods from China starting in 2018 neither raised nor lowered the overall number of jobs in the affected industries.But the tariffs did incite other countries to impose their own retaliatory tariffs on American products, making them more expensive to sell overseas, and those levies had a negative effect on American jobs, the paper finds. That was particularly true in agriculture: Farmers who exported soybeans, cotton and sorghum to China were hit by Beijing’s decision to raise tariffs on those products to as much as 25 percent.The Trump administration aimed to offset those losses by offering financial support for farmers, ultimately giving out $23 billion in 2018 and 2019. But those funds were distributed unevenly, a government assessment found, and the economists say those subsidies only partially mitigated the harm that had been caused by the tariffs.The findings contradict Mr. Trump’s claims that his tariffs helped to reverse some of the damage done by competition from China and bring back American manufacturing jobs that had gone overseas. The economists conclude that the aggregate effect on U.S. jobs of the three measures — the original tariffs, retaliatory tariffs and subsidies granted to farmers — were “at best a wash, and it may have been mildly negative.”“Certainly you can reject the hypothesis that this tariff policy was very successful at bringing back jobs to those industries that got a lot of exposure to that tariff war,” one of the study authors, David Dorn of the University of Zurich, said in an interview.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    Taking on Trump, Biden Promotes ‘Infrastructure Decade’ in Wisconsin

    The president made the trip to promote a $1 billion infrastructure project, contrasting his performance with the chaotic “Infrastructure Week” plans of former President Donald J. Trump.Consumer confidence is up. Fears of a recession are abating. The economy is growing. And a corroded bridge in Wisconsin is receiving more funding.It is a wintry mix of positive news for President Biden, who traveled to the shores of a bay near Lake Superior on Thursday to stand at the foot of the Blatnik Bridge, a structure that his administration said would have failed by 2030 without a $1 billion infusion provided by the bipartisan infrastructure law that Mr. Biden championed.The president was there to talk infrastructure and the economy, and to contrast his performance with that of his predecessor and likely challenger in the general election , former President Donald J. Trump.“The economic growth is stronger than we had during the Trump administration,” Mr. Biden, dressed in a casual pullover sweater, said as he addressed Wisconsinites assembled at Earth Rider Brewery in Superior, Wis. “We obviously have more work to do, but we’re making real progress.”As the president spoke, Mr. Trump was taking the stand in a defamation trial in New York, offering a striking split-screen comparison that the Biden campaign has welcomed.Mr. Biden and his advisers believe projects like the Blatnik, taking place in the backyards of Americans living in battleground states like Wisconsin, could be enough to bolster optimism and overcome pervasive skepticism about the state of the economy.In his event, Mr. Biden talked about the $6.1 billion that had been invested in Wisconsin and the $5.7 billion in Minnesota, located just over the bridge, which supports agriculture, shipping and forestry industries in the upper Midwest. The Blatnik, which spans the St. Louis Bay and connects the ports of Superior and Duluth, Minn., had corroded and been clogged with construction and detours.“For decades people talked about replacing this bridge, but it never got done,” Mr. Biden said. “Until today.”Bipartisan law or not, no Republican lawmakers assembled to greet Mr. Biden. (“I’m sorry to say the vast majority voted against it,” Mr. Biden said, a number that includes Rep. Tom Tiffany, a Republican representing the district where the bridge is located.)“The economic growth is stronger than we had during the Trump administration,” Mr. Biden said.Michael A. McCoy for The New York TimesThe Democratic governors of both Wisconsin and Minnesota showed up. “This would not have happened without Biden,” Gov. Tony Evers of Wisconsin told attendees.Several other Democrats, including Senator Tina Smith of Minnesota and Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, accompanied the president as he observed the bridge and, later, met with people at a taproom next to the brewery. Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota sipped a glass of beer as she mingled next to Mr. Biden.Even without no-show Republicans, who are quickly closing ranks around Mr. Trump, there are other headwinds to overcome.Mr. Biden has faced low approval ratings on the economy. And he has been criticized by other Democrats over whether it was smart of him to adopt Bidenomics as a namesake effort to take credit for an economy that Americans have repeatedly signaled they don’t feel excited about.On Thursday, Mr. Biden did not seem to be feeling any qualms. In the brewery, he stood in front of a pole that had letters spelling “Bidenomics,” and assailed Mr. Trump for “hollowed-out communities, closing down factories, leaving Americans behind.”For his part, Mr. Trump has attacked Mr. Biden on just about everything, but has also falsely claimed that low employment numbers under the Biden administration are not real.Elsewhere in the Midwest, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen took rare aim at Mr. Trump during a speech in Chicago.“Our country’s infrastructure has been deteriorating for decades,” Ms. Yellen said on Thursday. “In the Trump administration, the idea of doing anything to fix it was a punchline.”There was truth to her comment. During Mr. Trump’s presidency, he would often veer away from infrastructure-related speeches to attack his enemies. In his first Infrastructure Week-themed event in 2017, he accused James B. Comey, whom he had fired as F.B.I. director, of committing perjury and of leaking to the news media. He later proposed a $2 trillion infrastructure package without specifics on how he’d get the money. The phrase “Infrastructure Week” became a running joke in Washington.In November 2021, Mr. Biden signed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill into law.“Instead of infrastructure week, America is having an infrastructure decade,” Mr. Biden said on Thursday, referring to the work his administration has done.In a show of how significant Wisconsin will be ahead of the election in November, Mr. Biden traveled there just three days after Vice President Kamala Harris began a nationwide tour for reproductive rights in an event outside Milwaukee. Wisconsin is a battleground state where his campaign is focusing on courting Black voters, young voters and any voters who might help him wrest the state’s 10 electoral votes from Mr. Trump.Though Mr. Trump was in court, the Republican National Committee released a statement criticizing Mr. Biden for making the trip and blaming Bidenomics for economic problems.“With staggering inflation and negative economic growth, Wisconsinites are feeling the brunt of Joe Biden’s failures,” the group’s chairman, Ronna McDaniel, said in a statement. “Try as he might, it’s too little, too late to impress workers and families who are living paycheck to paycheck thanks to Bidenomics.”Alan Rappeport More

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    U.S. Economy Grew at 3.3% Rate in Latest Quarter

    The increase in gross domestic product, while slower than in the previous period, showed the resilience of the recovery from the pandemic’s upheaval.The U.S. economy continued to grow at a healthy pace at the end of 2023, capping a year in which unemployment remained low, inflation cooled and a widely predicted recession never materialized.Gross domestic product, adjusted for inflation, grew at a 3.3 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter, the Commerce Department said on Thursday. That was down from the 4.9 percent rate in the third quarter but easily topped forecasters’ expectations and showed the resilience of the recovery from the pandemic’s economic upheaval.The latest reading is preliminary and may be revised in the months ahead.Forecasters entered 2023 expecting the Federal Reserve’s aggressive campaign of interest-rate increases to push the economy into reverse. Instead, growth accelerated: For the full year, measured from the end of 2022 to the end of 2023, G.D.P. grew 3.1 percent, up from less than 1 percent the year before and faster than the average for the five years preceding the pandemic. (A different measure, based on average output over the full year, showed annual growth of 2.5 percent in 2023.)“Stunning and spectacular,” Diane Swonk, chief economist at KPMG, said of the latest data. “We’ll take the win.” More

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    Americans’ Economic Confidence Is Returning. Will Biden Benefit?

    The White House is embracing a nascent uptick in economic sentiment. It is likely good news — but how it will map to votes is complicated.Low approval ratings and rock-bottom consumer confidence figures have dogged President Biden for months now, a worrying sign for the White House as the country enters a presidential election year. But recent data suggests the tide is beginning to turn.Americans are feeling more confident about the economy than they have in years, by some measures. They increasingly expect inflation to continue its descent, preliminary data indicates, and they think interest rates will soon moderate.Returning optimism, if it persists, could bolster Mr. Biden’s chances as he pushes for re-election — and spell trouble for former President Donald J. Trump, who is the front-runner for the Republican nomination and has been blasting the Democratic incumbent’s economic record.But political scientists, consumer sentiment experts and economists alike said it was too early for Democrats to take a victory lap around the latest economic data and confidence figures. Plenty of economic risks remain that could derail the apparent progress. In fact, models that try to predict election outcomes based on economic data currently point to a tossup come November.“We’re still very early in the election cycle, from the perspective of economic factors,” said Joanne Hsu, who heads one of the most frequently cited sentiment indexes as director of consumer surveys at the University of Michigan. “A lot can happen.”The University of Michigan’s preliminary survey for January showed an unexpected surge in consumer sentiment: The index climbed to its highest level since July 2021, before inflation surged. While the confidence measure could be revised — and is still slightly below its long-run trend — it has been recovering quickly across age, income, education and geographic groups over the past two months.Confidence Is Still Down, but It’s ImprovingPreliminary January data from the University of Michigan survey suggested that consumer confidence is back at summer 2021 levels.

    Note: Final datapoint, for January, is preliminary.Source: University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment SurveyBy The New York TimesWe are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber?  More

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    Flush With Investment, New U.S. Factories Face a Familiar Challenge

    Worries are growing in Washington that a flood of Chinese products could put new American investments in clean energy and high-tech factories at risk.The Biden administration has begun pumping more than $2 trillion into U.S. factories and infrastructure, investing huge sums to try to strengthen American industry and fight climate change.But the effort is facing a familiar threat: a surge of low-priced products from China. That is drawing the attention of President Biden and his aides, who are considering new protectionist measures to make sure American industry can compete against Beijing.As U.S. factories spin up to produce electric vehicles, semiconductors and solar panels, China is flooding the market with similar goods, often at significantly lower prices than American competitors. A similar influx is also hitting the European market.American executives and officials argue that China’s actions violate global trade rules. The concerns are spurring new calls in America and Europe for higher tariffs on Chinese imports, potentially escalating what is already a contentious economic relationship between China and the West.The Chinese imports mirror a surge that undercut the Obama administration’s efforts to seed domestic solar manufacturing after the 2008 financial crisis and drove some American start-ups out of business. The administration retaliated with tariffs on solar equipment from China, sparking a dispute at the World Trade Organization.Some Biden officials are concerned that Chinese products could once again threaten the survival of U.S. factories at a moment when the government is spending huge sums to jump-start domestic manufacturing. Administration officials appear likely to raise tariffs on electric vehicles and other strategic goods from China, as part of a review of the levies former President Donald J. Trump imposed on China four years ago, according to people familiar with the matter. That review, which has been underway since Mr. Biden took office, could finally conclude in the next few months.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber?  More