Andrea Hsu

Andrea Hsu is NPR's labor and workplace correspondent.

Hsu first joined NPR in 2002 and spent nearly two decades as a producer for All Things Considered. Through interviews and in-depth series, she's covered topics ranging from America's opioid epidemic to emerging research at the intersection of music and the brain. She led the award-winning NPR team that happened to be in Sichuan Province, China, when a massive earthquake struck in 2008. In the coronavirus pandemic, she reported a series of stories on the pandemic's uneven toll on women, capturing the angst that women and especially mothers were experiencing across the country, alone. Hsu came to NPR via National Geographic, the BBC, and the long-shuttered Jumping Cow Coffee House.

Crystal Rogers, owner of Cozy Couch Family Day Care in Martinsburg, W.Va., finally feels appreciated. It took the pandemic to make that happen.

For too long, she says, society has looked down on day care — as somehow less worthy than school. And no wonder. Child care is one of the lowest paid occupations in America.

"We're not baby sitters ... I've been wanting to say that," Rogers says. "We go to trainings. We do all the things that a professional child care provider does."

For a while there, it seemed like things were finally heading back to normal. Now, not so much.

In the span of just a week, plans for a September return to the office have been pushed back. Mask mandates have made a comeback. And a growing number of employers, including the federal government, are laying down the line on vaccines.

For many, it was a welcome surprise. On July 15, cash flowed into the bank accounts of parents across the U.S. as the government rolled out the first monthly payments of the enhanced child tax credit passed by Congress this spring.

But as helpful as those payments are to a lot of families, they could actually create headaches for others, with some people owing money to the government next year.

As a result, some parents have already opted out of the monthly payments and are instead choosing to receive the entire credit next year when they file their taxes.

OSHA has announced 59 citations and nearly $1 million in penalties after an investigation into a nitrogen leak at a poultry processing plant that killed six workers and injured at least a dozen others earlier this year.

If you have children under the age of 18, chances are good you'll be getting some cash from the federal government this week. In fact, check your bank account — the money might already be there.

The White House says $15 billion in payments have been sent out to the families of nearly 60 million children as part of the expanded child tax credit. Families will receive the funds by direct deposit or check. How much you get will depend on income and number of eligible children.

If you've ever hesitated to add a smiley face or a thumbs-up to an email, a new survey from Adobe may put you at ease.

The software company, which conducts regular surveys on emoji use, found that the whimsical icons can make people feel more connected and more receptive to new tasks. They allow people to quickly share ideas. They make group decisions more efficient and can even reduce the need for meetings and calls.

Among Generation Z users, more than half said they'd be more satisfied at their job if their bosses used more emoji in workplace communications.

President Biden is making good on a campaign promise to curtail noncompete agreements.

As part of a sweeping executive order, Biden is asking the Federal Trade Commission to ban or limit such agreements, which restrict where you can work after leaving a job.

Job openings remained at a historic high in May, more evidence that workers are in high demand as the economy bounces back from the pandemic.

Openings reached 9.2 million, according to the Labor Department, about what they were a month earlier. They're about 30% higher than they were in February 2020, right before the pandemic.

While the May numbers remain little changed since April, there were some declines in job openings in certain sectors such as real estate, warehouses and transportation. Other sectors, meanwhile, continue to face staffing shortages.

As many people contemplate a future in which they don't need to commute to offices, the idea of working less altogether also has its appeal.

Now, research out of Iceland has found that working fewer hours for the same pay led to improved well-being among workers, with no loss in productivity. In fact, in some places, workers were more productive after cutting back their hours.

Time now for a quiz.

What do Amazon, Disney World and Dickie Jo's Burgers in Eugene, Ore., all have in common?

a. They employ low-wage workers.

b. They're in desperate need of workers this summer.

c. They're offering $1,000 sign-on bonuses.

d. All of the above.

If you answered d, you're right. (Sorry, we're not paying cash for correct answers!)

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