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Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will go to Beijing, as part of a business trip aimed at encouraging more trade with China. The trip is paid for by the Port of LA and Los Angeles World Airport. (Photo: Mayor Villaraigosa at celebration for Port of L.A. main channel deepening project).
Antonio Villaraigosa will step down as L.A. mayor next month, but not before he goes on a trip to encourage more trade, tourism and business from China.
Villaraigosa, along with officials from the Port of Los Angeles, Los Angeles World Airports and the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board, will go on a business trip to Beijing from May 26 to 29. But the cost isn't cheap – the trip for the delegation of 10 people is about $80,000.
The Port of L.A. and the Los Angeles World Airports is footing the bill with no taxpayer money. Villaraigosa said the business trip is important.
"Promoting trade, tourism and foreign direct investment is critical," Villaraigosa said.
The last time the mayor was in China was in 2011. Gov. Jerry Brown was also on a trade mission in China last month, but the Port of L.A. said this trip is different.
Fewer Southern Californians will go out of town during the Memorial Day weekend due to concerns about the sluggish economy. Where are they most likely to go?
The top destinations for Southern Californian travelers are San Diego, Las Vegas, San Francisco, the Central Coast and the Grand Canyon, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California. The destinations were determined by a survey of the club's travel agents.
About 2.5 million Southern Californians will travel this weekend, down 2 percent from a year ago, according to the Automobile Club.
"We have an up and down economy," said spokeswoman Elaine Beno. "We have the impact on the end of the payroll tax holiday on working families and we have 30-year low in the percentage of working-aged people in the workforce."
Beno said all those conditions have led Southern Californians to make fewer travel plans.
Congress is considering a bill that would allow states to require retailers to collect sales tax when people make online purchases.
Californians are already familiar with the idea. A state law mandates online retailers like Amazon.com to collect sales taxes from California customers. The law took effect last September and applies to online retailers based in other states that sell more than $1 million a year in goods to California customers.
The law was intended to help Calfornia-based retailers like Leigh Smyth, who have been always been required to collect tax on their California sales. Smyth sells toys through eBay and Amazon out of storage unit she rents in Pasadena.
"Even as an Internet retailer, I'm responsible to pay that sales tax," Smyth said. "So whether I collect it or pay it out of my pocket, I am responsible to do it."
In the first few years of her business, she paid the tax herself for her California customers. Now, with more people in-state buying her toys, the customers pay it, and not all of them have been happy about it.
"A few years ago on eBay, it was not uncommon for people to read me the riot act: 'Why do I have to pay sales tax? I shouldn't have to pay sales tax. It's online,'" Smyth recalls. "But I have to pay it, so I have I have to charge it. And it's as simple as that."
Smyth now gets some relief from knowing that more of her out-of-state competitors must collect the tax as well.
"I think it's the beginning of leveling the playing field for California businesses," said Jerome Horton, Chairman of the California Board of Equalization, the agency overseeing the state's tax collections.
A Department of Transportation report shows the Long Beach Airport has the second lowest average domestic airfares in the U.S. at $234. The lowest average fare is $157 at Atlantic City's airport.
Thinking of flying away this Memorial Day holiday weekend? It could be cheaper out of Long Beach. Recent rankings from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) show the Long Beach Airport has the second lowest average domestic airfares in the country.
The USDOT ranked 100 airports by average round-trip fares in the 4th quarter of 2012. But one-way fares were included in some instances.
The average domestic airfare at Long Beach was $234, far below the national average at $374. Only Atlantic City’s airport offered a lower average fare of $157.
“This is a very important number for us, because it actually translates into customer service,” said Long Beach Airport Director Mario Rodriguez.
Rodriguez said the customers breakdown into two groups: air travelers and the airlines that operate at the Long Beach Airport.
A line of job seekers wait to get into a Walmart hiring event at the Metropolitan Baptist Church in Altadena on Dec. 8, 2012.
Just a year ago, the unemployment rate was 10.7 percent.
“It’s great to be able to report that we are able to make such progress in the unemployment rate,” said Robert Kleinhenz, chief economist with the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.
Why is the state’s unemployment rate declining?
Last month, California employers added 293,100 jobs, an increase of 1.9 percent, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics. The industries with the highest gains by number of jobs were in professional and business services, leisure and hospitality and education and health services.
There are also fewer people looking for jobs. The civilian labor force in California has dropped by 139,000 people compared to a year ago, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics.