This week, NPR and some member stations will be talking about trade on the campaign trail and in communities around the country.

Economists for decades have agreed that more open international trade is good for the U.S. economy. But recent research finds that while that's still true, when it comes to China, the downside for American workers has been much more painful than the experts predicted.

And that's playing out on the presidential campaign trail in a big way.

'Disastrous' Trade Agreements?

Martha Guise is the principal of Century High School in Hillsboro, a Portland suburb. She says class sizes at her school are around 34 — much higher than desired.
KUOW Photo/Carolyn Adolph

For all Washington's fretting over state funding for education, there are people in Oregon who would love to have Washington's problems.

Bill Radke speaks with Seattle Times economics columnist Jon Talton about neoliberalism, what it means for the 2016 election cycle and the consequences for the American middle class.

Oregon's economy continues to flourish, but the long-term outlook isn't as rosy. That was the message to lawmakers Wednesday from state economists, who released their quarterly revenue forecast.

Emily Martin created a state-by-state map of the gender wage gap in the United States. She calculated: Washington, D.C., has the smallest wage gap where women average nearly 90 cents to a man's dollar; Louisiana has the largest gap — women there earn just 65 percent of what men do.

Nationally, women earn an average 79 cents for every dollar men do. The gender wage gap is even wider for black and Hispanic women.

Ebrahim Pourfaraj wants to build the biggest hotel in all of Iran.

He's already started his project in the far north Tehran, a wealthy zone where the city climbs up the slopes of the snow-capped Alborz Mountains.

You get out of the car, carefully stepping over the little mountain stream that flows in a channel beside the curb. After stepping through a construction trailer, you emerge on a steel-mesh platform looking over the edge of an enormous hole.

A construction crane working on a building is shown with Port of Seattle cranes in the background on a foggy summer day, Monday, July 15, 2014, in Seattle.
AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

Bill Radke speaks with Seattle Times economics columnist Jon Talton about why some people see a recession coming our way and what that could mean for the Seattle boom.

Guadalupe Rangel scoops up hearty servings of homemade pulled pork, rice and coleslaw for her two teenage sons. 

This simple plate of food is not something Rangel and her sons take for granted. There was a time when she didn’t have enough money to even buy eggs, she says, her eyes welling up with tears. She was devastated to see her children hungry and losing focus in school.

“We were desperate, and it was very difficult,” she says. “I felt a lot of depression just knowing that I couldn’t give them the basics.”

Once upon a time, the Northwest was home to ten massive aluminum smelters. As of today, just one still operates. And the Alcoa company plans to idle that smelter near Ferndale, Washington, indefinitely in June.

Is it the end for a one-time pillar of the Northwest economy or merely a pause?

 Jaxon Ravens, chairman of the Washington State Democratic Party
Flickr Photo/Ronald Woan (CC BY NC 2.0)/

Bill Radke speaks with Jaxon Ravens, chairman of the Washington State Democratic Party, about voters' feelings on the economy as we head into the 2016 election year. He said that middle class incomes have struggled to keep pace, but as a whole the state has been doing very well. 

Bill Radke speaks with Susan Hutchison, chairman of the Washington State Republican Party, about voters' feelings on the economy as we head into the 2016 election year. She said there's a difference between those who live in downtown Seattle -- who have a sense that the engine is roaring due to Amazon -- and those who live in smaller cities or Eastern Washington. 

When people had trouble paying the rent in the early 1900s, they might hold a party in their homes, with music and dancing, and sell tickets at the door. Now, a nonprofit group is holding a modern-day version of the rent party to shine a light on the growing lack of affordable housing.

The new parties aren't exactly like the old ones, which were mostly held in Harlem. There's no dancing, food or tickets. But there is music, as was the case recently in Annapolis, Md., where about 20 people gathered in Tom Wall's small apartment to help him, and others like him, pay the rent.

Washington's governor is ruling out a direct public subsidy to save the jobs of hundreds of workers at the Northwest's last operational aluminum smelters. But other forms of support such as retraining assistance remain under consideration.

This day is starting out really nasty if you happen to be an oil driller — or a baby boomer who would like to retire with a nest egg.

Through the night and into the morning, the price of oil has been falling. You can now buy a barrel for less than $30. (Remember, it was nearly $115 as recently as June 2014.) The market for oil has been thrown into disarray because of worries about possible declining Chinese demand and surging Iranian supplies.

That means U.S. oil producers will continue to see their profits plunge and industry layoffs worsen.

When President Obama first took the oath of office seven years ago this month, the U.S. economy was so battered that many economists were pondering the possibility of another Great Depression.

The fears were real: Employers were cutting 796,000 jobs; the auto industry was facing bankruptcy; private foreclosures and public debts were soaring.