October 5, 2009

American Apparel forced to lay off 1,800 immigrant workers

The Obama administration has forced American Apparel to lay off 1,800 immigrant workers there.  As reported in Terra:

The firings at the well-regarded Los Angeles based company provide a clear example of how the Obama administration is trying to move from workplace raids to forced termination in the fight against illegal immigration. But the firings are not without controversy, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said the terminations were “devastating” and his office publicly called on the federal government to focus on employers that exploit and abuse their workers. American Apparel has historically been very good to their workers, providing all of their garment producers with health and life insurance and paying them well above the standard going rate for garment workers.

Opinions on this move have been mixed. While some say these jobs can now go to Americans and legal residents, others say this could further harm a region already devastated by unemployment. The Los Angeles Times, for example, wrote the following editorial:

There are those who believe that Los Angeles will benefit because those jobs will now go to American citizens. Certainly that is possible. Joblessness in California is at 12.2%, a 70-year high andfar past the national average of 9.7%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And between August 2008 and August of this year, Los Angeles lost more jobs than any other U.S. city. Citizens of every race and ethnicity, desperate for employment, are now frequenting day- labor sites in downtown L.A. and Hollywood, according to the Wall Street Journal; some have turned to farm work and labor in the fields. But even if American Apparel replaces its lost workers with U.S. citizens, it’s just a shell game; one problem is solved while another is created.

Filed under Fashion and Apparel, U.S. Government by

September 7, 2009

California loses 127,000 Manufacturing Jobs

California was the second-largest loser of manufacturing jobs — 123,400 — over the past year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Only Ohio lost more more jobs than the Golden State: 127,000. A report by the Milken Institute released earlier this summer reached a similar conclusion, but noted that the state is hemorrhaging high-tech manufacturing jobs at an even higher rate than in traditional manufacturing industries. California’s employment in this high-wage, high-skill segment is down 23 percent from 2000 levels, as opposed to declines nationally of 19 percent and the peer states’ average of 16 percent. In fact, from 2003 to 2007, encompassing the recovery of the high-tech sector, the peer states gained 24,000 high-tech manufacturing jobs while California lost almost 16,000.

“Widespread misconceptions about the manufacturing sector in California are part of the problem,” said Perry Wong, senior economist and one of the authors of the report. “People don’t understand that manufacturing is an integral part of the high-tech and clean-tech economy. If Californians want to build the future economic recovery on high-tech and retain highly skilled workers, they have to address the underlying issues of this sector now.”

Filed under California Economy, Manufacturing by

September 5, 2009

Chevron to work with USAID on Angola’s economic development

Chevron Corp. will work with USAID and another group to support economic development in Angola. The San Ramon-based oil giant will work with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Cooperative League of the United States of America (CLUSA) on this project. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton witnessed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the project in Angola’s capital, Luanda. The partnership is intended to support financial, educational, technical and training services to improve the viability of small and medium scale farmers in the southern African state. According to Chevron spokesman Scott Walker, the MOU is an extension to the $56 million Angola Partnership Initiative, created in 2002. The new MOU focuses on agricultural initiatives to increase yield and market share for small to medium scale farmers. Chevron didn’t disclose how much funding it will provide for the program, but itsoil interests in Angola include the Tombua-Landana Project, which is projected to achieve peak production of 100,000 barrels of crude oil per day as of 2011. Read the full story here.

Filed under Angola, Energy Industry by

September 1, 2009

Los Angeles loses most jobs in U.S.

Los Angeles was the nation’s biggest loser in employment during the past 12 months, according to figures released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Los Angeles area lost 240,100 jobs between July 2008 and the same month this year, the biggest decline in raw numbers anywhere in America. The second biggest losers were the Chicago and New York City markets with losses of 206,200 and 157,900 jobs, respectively.

Filed under California Economy by

August 31, 2009

Toyota Dumps California

Toyota Motor Corp. has announced that it plans to end production in March 2010 at the Fremont plant it has run with General Motors Co. The Toyota-GM partnership has run the plant since 1984 – Corolla compact and Tacoma pickups are built there. Bob Wasserman, mayor of Fremont expressed disappointment at the news that the 5.3-million-square-foot plant would close: “This is a real tragic loss of jobs, very good jobs, for the workers at NUMMI,” he said. “There are a lot of good people there who will now be out of work. And this impact will be felt well beyond Fremont, considering all of the people employed by suppliers around the East Bay and the Central Valley. This is a very difficult situation.”

Filed under Japan, Manufacturing by

June 24, 2009

California jobless rate hits 11.5 – biggest in State history

California’s unemployment rate climbed to 11.5 percent in May, the highest in modern record-keeping, the U.S. Department of Labor has reported. Last month, California lost 68,900 jobs, and in the past 12 months a staggering 739,500 jobs have disappeared from the state. If you include part-time workers seeking full-time work plus workers who have given up looking for traditional employment, the jobless rate could be as high as 25 percent, exceeding the national unemployment levels in the worst part of the Great Depression. Economists project that the layoffs will continue to rise at least through the end of this year and probably into 2010, even if the economy starts to recover.

Most of the cutbacks came from government: 11,400 job cuts in federal government and 2,800 from state and local agencies, as municipalities scaled back their services to cope with the crippling effects of tax declines and budget cuts. Adding to the decline in government employment, every major job category lost jobs in May except for education and health care, which added 2,100. Construction companies cut 11,300 positions; manufacturing, 10,400; professional and business services, 10,900; retail, wholesale, transportation and utilities, 8,300; leisure and information, 8,100; and hospitality, 2,700.

As shocking as these numbers are, what is even more shocking is that the State Government doesn’t seem to be doing anything about it, as they are mostly concerned with their own survival. Early indications are that the Obama administration stimulus money is going mostly to save the jobs of existing State workers and bureaucrats, who are already doing relatively well. Very little of the funding seems to be going into job creation, economic development or innovative programs to help small business.

Filed under California Economy, California Government by

June 16, 2009

U.S. refuses California emergency financial assistance

The Obama administration has refused requests for emergency assistance from senior State government officials. Calling California, “one of the biggest remaining threats to the economy” the Washington Post reported that top state officials have gone hat in hand to the administration, armed with dire warnings of a fast-approaching “fiscal meltdown” caused by a budget shortfall. Concern has grown inside the White House in recent weeks as California’s fiscal condition has worsened, leading to high-level administration meetings. But the Post reported that federal officials are worried that a bailout of California would set off a cascade of demands from other states. The administration is also concerned that California will enact massive cuts to close its deficit aggravating the state’s recession and further dragging down the national economy. After a series of meetings, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, top White House economists Lawrence Summers and Christina Romer, and other senior officials have decided that California could hold on a little longer and should get its budget in order rather than rely on a federal bailout.

Filed under California Economy, California Government, California Politics, U.S. Government by

June 15, 2009

Global recession batters California’s ports

California’s ports are getting quieter and the state’s huge export slump is getting worse. According to a report in the Sacramento Bee, exports from California fell 25.5 percent in April from a year earlier, figures compiled Wednesday by Sacramento trade consultant Jock O’Connel reveal. The shipments from California’s ports, totaling $9.25 billion, represent the worst April in four years. Earlier this year, exports were falling at about a 20 percent rate. O’Connell said the new figures show a turnaround is a ways off despite signs on the national level that the economy might bottom out soon. O’Connell told the Bee that the export decline was widespread. The volume of cargo leaving the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach was off 18 percent. Exports from San Francisco International Airport fell 34 percent. For the state, April marked the sixth straight month of declining exports. O’Connell added that imports at California’s ports fell 28.5 percent, demonstrating the global spread of the recession.

Filed under California Economy, California Ports by

May 18, 2009

Economist magazine calls California “ungovernable”

The respected publication “The Economist” has called California “the ungovernable State”. They certainly have a point- the Goverment here is a total mess, and voters are in a foul mood about tomorrow’s special election – and they should be, our government has failed us, and has many, many structural problems, but our leaders have failed us also. We have a government with absolutely no foresight, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, our part-time Governor, deserves his share of the blame. With all of California’s problems, our “lack of leadership” is certainly the most serious. Here are an excerpt and the full article can be read here:

ON MAY 19th Californians will go to the polls to vote on six ballot measures that are as important as they are confusing. If these measures fail, America’s biggest state will enter a full-blown financial crisis… A good outcome is no longer possible. California now has the worst bond rating among the 50 states. Income-tax receipts are coming in far below expectations. On May 11th Arnold Schwarzenegger, the governor, sent a letter to the legislature warning it that, by his latest estimates, the state will face a budget gap of $15.4 billion if the ballot measures pass, $21.3 billion if they fail. Prisoners will have to be released, firefighters fired, and other services cut or eliminated. One way or the other, on May 20th Californians will have to begin discussing how to fix their broken state.

Only a minority of Californians bother to vote, and those voters tend to be older, whiter and richer than the state’s younger, browner and poorer population… Those voters, moreover, have over time “self-sorted” themselves into highly partisan districts: loony left in Berkeley or Santa Monica, for instance; rabid right in Orange County or parts of the Central Valley. Politicians have done the rest by gerrymandering bizarre boundaries around their supporters. The result is that elections are won during the Republican or Democratic primaries, rather than in run-offs between the two parties.
Representative democracy is only one half of California’s peculiar governance system. The other half, direct democracy, fails just as badly. California is one of 24 states that allow referendums, recalls and voter initiatives. But it is the only state that does not allow its legislature to override successful initiatives (called “propositions”) and has no sunset clauses that let them expire. It also uses initiatives far more, and more irresponsibly, than any other state.

Filed under California Politics, Governor Schwarzenegger, Opinion by

March 26, 2009

Huge demand for California bonds

The Sacramento business journal is reporting “huge” demands for California bonds: Investors were more enthusiastic about buying California debt than expected, putting in orders for $6.54 billion in general obligation bonds in a sale by the state Treasurer’s Office that ended Tuesday State officials had expected to sell $4 billion. The extra cash will allow officials to restart more stalled projects that were halted in December due to the state’s cash crisis. Treasurer Bill Lockyer’s office said there was “huge” demand from both individual investors and institutional buyers such as mutual funds. Officials have not determined which of 5,300 halted projects should be allowed to proceed. Until this sale, the tight credit market and the state’s prolonged budget crisis kept California out of the bond market for nine months.

Filed under Agriculture and Food, California Economy, California Government, Mergers and Acquisitions by

Yasheng Group seeking stock exchange listing

Agricultural holding company Yasheng Group reported a $76 million profit for 2008 as part of its goal to be listed on a major U.S. stock exchange, according to a report in the San Francisco Business Times. Yasheng Group is a Redwood City holding company focused on agriculture in China. It has about 15,000 workers. It owns seven agricultural businesses in China that grow products such as onions, potatoes, apples, alfalfa, flax, beets, wheat, apricots, sunflowers, beer barley and cumin. As part of its move towards a major stockmarket listing, Yasheng published its financial results for 2006 and 2007 in January. More on Yasheng Group seeking stock exchange listing

Filed under Agriculture and Food, China, Mergers and Acquisitions by

UCLA Forecast says National Recovery depends on World Trade

The UCLA Anderson Forecast, an economic think tank, has linked the current national recession to slumping international economic conditions that will impact the timing and pace of any national recovery. The Forecast asserts that a turnaround in the U.S. economy depends upon a recovery in world trade. The report also states that regardless of the steps taken by the U.S. government, national solutions will not be enough to restore growth and therefore global solutions are essential. In California, it’s forecasted that the economy will remain in turmoil for the foreseeable future as the twin sector engines of consumers and construction continue to drag, according to a press release that summarized the report.
More on UCLA Forecast says National Recovery depends on World Trade

Filed under California Economy by

March 25, 2009

California ranked worst place for business

California came in dead last in a national ranking of the best states to do business, according to Chief Executive magazine. Finishing just ahead of California in the 2009 rankings were New York, Michigan, New Jersey and Massachusetts. Texas was ranked first.  The magazine evaluated states on natural resources, regulation, tax policies, quality of living, education and infrastructure, among other categories. Chief Executive magazine said states that perform well in the rankings tend to have lower taxes and little unionization. California ranked 48th in “cost of business” and “business friendliness.”

Filed under California Economy by

March 24, 2009

China has blocked Youtube

China has blocked the video-sharing Web site YouTube but has not offered any reason or explanation for the ban. Mountain View-based Google, which owns YouTube, said it began noticing a decline in traffic from China about noon Monday.  By early Wednesday, site users insider China continued to encounter an error message: “Network Timeout. The server at youtube.com is taking too long to respond.” “We do not know the reason for the blockage and we are working as quickly as possible to restore access to our users,” said Scott Rubin, a spokesman for Google. It’s not the first time users in China have been unable to access the site. In March 2008, China blocked YouTube during riots in Tibet.

Filed under China, Internet, Media and Entertainment by

March 13, 2009

Sony Pictures to cut 150 jobs in Los Angeles

Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc., the movie studio subsidiary of the Japanese electronics maker, is laying off nearly 250 people and eliminating nearly 100 open positions in an effort to cut costs. According to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle, about 150 of those jobs will be in the Los Angeles area:

Chief Executive Michael Lynton and studio co-chair Amy Pascal announced job cuts of 3.5 percent of the studio’s staff worldwide in a staff memo sent out Tuesday afternoon. “Our studio remains profitable, but over the past five months, the deepening global financial crisis has begun to impact some of our lines of business, such as television syndication, DVDs and advertising sales,” they said in the memo. These economic effects have, regretfully, made it necessary to take the step we had hoped to avoid, and worked hard to minimize: reducing our headcount.”

Filed under Entertainment Industry, Japan by

March 12, 2009

San Francisco Chamber on anti-”anti-junket” junket

Fifty members of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce have taken a business trip to Washington D.C. to protest the “anti-junket” attitudes that have gripped Congress and the public after several incidents of abuses by bailed out financial firms. As reported in the San Francisco Chronicle:

Big business is cutting back on convention travel these days, afraid of being branded as lavish spenders in a down economy. And that’s having a real impact on cities like San Francisco, where conventions and business meetings have a huge impact on our economy. That’s the message a delegation of the city’s civic leaders will deliver to Congress today, specifically asking the Northern California congressional delegation to help tone down the criticism of such business meetings. The San Francisco officials are concerned that businesses that otherwise would send employees to meetings and spend appropriate sums on food and entertainment will increasingly cancel meetings out of fear they will be singled out on Capitol Hill and by the public as overindulgent. “They don’t want to be on the front page of the newspaper or on the 11 o’clock news, seen as frivolously spending money even though it is for legitimate purposes,” said Joe McInerney, the president and chief executive officer of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, based in Washington. The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce-led delegation, consisting of some 50 participants, is in Washington to ask members to keep in mind the economic contribution of travel and tourism while they negotiate proposed restrictions on recipients of federal emergency funds. They do not want legitimate business travel chilled because of extravagant spending by others… “We do not want to support irresponsible extravagance, but we also do not want to discourage business from holding conventions and meetings so they can spend appropriately on entertainment in San Francisco,” said Steve Falk, the chamber president. Among those suffering the consequences of a falloff in business are service employees, he said. “While we understand the need for transparency, we want to make sure that legislation (covering emergency fund recipients) does not have the unintended consequences of impacting negatively on the hospitality workforce,” said Mariann Costello, vice president of Scoma’s restaurant in San Francisco, who is among the chamber delegation.

Filed under Business Associations, Travel and Tourism, U.S. Government, U.S. Politics by

YouTube to block music videos in United Kingdom

Online video site YouTube will block most music videos in the United Kingdom because talks with a royalty group there failed and an earlier license between YouTube and the group expired. San Bruno-based YouTube, which is owned by giant Google Inc. said the Performing Rights Society for Music asked for too much money in licensing fees, more than YouTube was willing to pay.

Filed under Media and Entertainment, United Kingdom by

March 3, 2009

Chancellor Merkel and Governor Schwarzenegger open German trade show

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger jointly inaugurated CeBIT, one of the top annual fairs in the technology industry. CeBIT exhibits computers, software and communications products, mainly for corporate and manufacturing buyers. At the event this year, California has been declared ‘partner,’ an honorary status usually awarded to entire nations.  Schwarzenegger, speaking in both English and German to an invited audience, highlighted California’s advanced computer technology.  “Technology is really our great hope for creating extra revenues and stimulating the economy — especially green technology is where the action is,” said Schwarzenegger.  Speaking in English, our Austrian-born governor said environmental-technology companies represent the only sector of California’s economy that is creating jobs.  Schwarzenegger praised Germany’s commitment to renewable energy and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and attacked economic protectionism. “The world is the marketplace … and the only way we can protect the consumer is if we let the consumer choose from products all over the world no matter where they come from,” he said. The Governor also tried to encourage the executives attending to be more upbeat, “”Losers whine but winners move forward in a strong and powerful way and I know that everyone who is here at the CeBIT is a winner!” In spite of the upbeat speeches, to mood at CeBIT was reported to be gloomy as a result of the worldwide economic slowdown and slump in the computer industry.  This year’s CeBIT has suffered a 25-per-cent slump in exhibitor numbers to 4,300.

Filed under Germany, Governor Schwarzenegger, Information Technology by

February 12, 2009

Worlds Largest Solar Deal?

The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting that a recent agreement between BrightSource Energy – developer of seven large solar plants planned for the California desert, and Southern California Edison may be the “world’s largest solar deal”:

Solar power’s explosive growth in California may have been stunted by the credit crisis and the recession, but the boom isn’t over yet.  In what could be the world’s largest solar deal to date, BrightSource Energy of Oakland announced Wednesday that it will sell Southern California Edison 1,300 megawatts of electricity from seven large solar plants planned for the California desert. That’s enough juice to light 845,000 homes, and it easily eclipses other recent deals signed by utilities here and abroad that are trying to expand their use of renewable power.  “It’s a significant statement by Southern California Edison in their commitment to renewable energy and BrightSource’s technology,” said John Woolard, BrightSource’s chief executive officer. “America and California have long called for clean renewable energy, and we look forward to working with Southern California Edison to meet this need.”  Full story here

Filed under Energy Industry by

Wall Street Journal: “California’s Pain is Only Beginning”

The Wall Street Journal ran an article describing how thing might be getting pretty rough here:

As Sacramento squabbles over the state’s $42 billion deficit, Californians are getting a bitter taste of what’s to come after the steep budget cuts that are inevitable when legislators and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger finally hammer out a deal… “Before it gets better, it’s going to get a lot worse,” said Joseph Valentine, director of Contra Costa County’s Department of Employment and Human Services. The department, which administers social services such as food stamps, has cut 12%, or $25 million, of its budget. It has managers answering reception-desk phones, and Mr. Valentine expects another round of cuts… While Sacramento talks, money is drying up in places like Contra Costa County, where 40,000 families have applied for 350 available slots for Section 8 vouchers — a federal subsidy that allows low-income families to rent in the private market. “The level of desperation is just heartbreaking,” said Joseph Villareal, executive director of the Contra Costa Housing Authority.

Filed under California Economy, California Government by

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