This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. The number of people applying for unemployment benefits has been dropping around the country as the new year begins. Companies are laying off fewer workers, and hiring may be picking up. The U.S. Labor Department reported yesterday that the unemployment rate is now 8.5 percent, the lowest level in almost three years.
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Voters in New Hampshire are getting a last close-up glimpse of the candidates running for the Republican presidential nomination. But the number of candidates is dwindling in this last weekend before Tuesday's primary vote. Now, in a moment, we'll hear how Congressman Ron Paul's New Hampshire bid is shaping up. First, we're joined by NPR's national political correspondent Don Gonyea in Manchester. Don, thanks very much for being with us.
And Texas Congressman Ron Paul took a break from the campaign trail following his third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses, but today he is back in New Hampshire. He'll take part in tonight's debate with the other Republican candidates for president. Yesterday, Dr. Paul addressed an enthusiastic crowd of supporters in an airplane hangar in Nashua and took particular aim at one of his competitors, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. NPR's Brian Naylor reports.
President Obama may have riled Republicans with his recess appointment of Richard Cordray to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, but there's bipartisan agreement on Mr. Cordray's qualifications. He served as Ohio's attorney general. Before that, he was Ohio state treasurer. For more, we're joined by our friend from the business world, New York Times op-ed columnist Joe Nocera. Joe, thanks for being with us.