December 10, 2011 Workers who helped reconstruct New Orleans after Katrina are putting down roots in the city. The construction jobs aren't as easy to get as they once were, and many immigrants report that employers sometimes don't pay them for their work.
December 6, 2011 East Millinocket, Maine, used to be a booming paper mill town that offered residents what was basically a guaranteed ticket into the middle class. But today young people are scrambling to find a new path. "It's a little scary because it's going to be tough," says high school senior Jared Lyons.
November 29, 2011 Berea College's 1,600 students come from low-income households, and sophomore Emily Nugent says they "know about the challenges Americans are facing." Inspired by their own diverse backgrounds, they're taking up causes like standing with the newly poor, helping immigrants or embracing their heritage.
November 22, 2011 John Timmons recently closed ear X-tacy, a record store he'd owned for 26 years. "People have priorities, and music is just not a top priority right now. That's what's really taken its toll on us," he says. Now, Timmons has to figure out what to do with the rest of his life.
November 17, 2011 Alice Eastman, a single mother living in Wheaton, Ill., tried to make ends meet on unemployment while she hunted for a job in her field after being laid off in 2010. After a long, fruitless search, Eastman, a once highly paid professional, took a minimum-wage job at Target.
November 13, 2011 Billings, Mont., has its share of natural resources. But residents attribute their ability to weather the economic storm to a diversification of services beyond oil — like agriculture, financial services and health care. "It's just a great day here in Billings," says a leader of a new library project.
November 10, 2011 Though some in East Millinocket, Maine, are thrilled the town's paper mill is open again, many are unhappy with what the jobs are paying. But for every resident riled up about the lower wages, there seems to be another who is infuriated at those who dare complain.
November 10, 2011 Huntsville is the shining star in Alabama's economy. Scientists there designed the rockets that put man on the moon. In the past 50 years, it's become a magnet for high-tech space and defense jobs. But with NASA downsizing and the specter of defense cuts looming, Huntsville finds itself in limbo.
November 1, 2011 Norris and Janis Galatas had planned to be settled at middle age. But then Norris got wounded in Iraq and Janis lost her job. They're barely squeaking by, and they feel like the middle class has been left behind. "It's sad that the American dream is not even realistic anymore," Norris says.
November 1, 2011 Solano County, Calif., between San Francisco and Sacramento, has a great climate, diversity and until recently, stable neighborhoods. But now it has the second-highest foreclosure rate in the country. Residents here long for different economic times, like when they were growing up.
October 30, 2011 NPR has been reporting on the country's tough economic times for years, but in November, two reporters take the story on the road. Starting this week, correspondents Debbie Elliott and Richard Gonzales begin reporting for the NPR series Hard Times: A Journey Across America..
October 19, 2011 America has always come back from hard times. Is this time different? NPR will soon explore the country to hear from people about their experiences in this economy. Help us plan our trip. Tell us what stories you want to hear and where you think we ought to go.