Explaining Southern California's economy

January jobs preview: We could be facing an ugly number

A jobs sign hangs above the entrance to

KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

A jobs sign hangs above the entrance to the US Chamber of Commerce building in Washington, DC.

Friday morning, the Labor Department will release its jobs report for January. I'll be up at the crack of dawn in Southern California to write up the numbers when they hit, so join me in the darkness with a big cup of coffee or three.

The current U.S. unemployment rate is 7.8 percent. Private payrolls processor ADP, which generates an employment report ahead of the Labor Department, said that the country added 192,000 jobs in January.

Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expect 185,000. Both numbers are higher than what we wound up getting, on a preliminary basis, from the official government data in December: 155,000.

If ADP and the Bloomberg economist brain trust are right, then we're off to a decent start for 2013 — although to really push the unemployment rate lower in a hurry, we need to add 300-400,000 new jobs each month. 

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Why better third-quarter U.S. economic growth isn't good enough

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

A Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft at the company's factory in Everett, Wash. Building and selling more of these would improve weak U.S. growth.

The federal Bureau of Economic Analysis revised its estimate for third-quarter U.S. economic growth on Thursday. The news is good: the total output of the economy, its gross domestic product (GDP), moved up to 2.7 percent from an earlier estimate of 2 percent.

The upward revision isn't terribly shocking (if an economist gives you a shopping list, you can expect a revision by the time you get to the cereal aisle). But it is a nice surprise. It means that the economy grew more briskly in the third quarter – although it doesn't mean that U.S. GDP growth for the year will get its head above 2 percent total. For that, the country will need a pretty solid fourth quarter.

For the record, that's what happened last year. The fourth quarter came in at 4 percent. But the entire year averaged out to only 1.7 percent, because the other three quarters were so weak.

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California and LA unemployment: Improving, but very slowly

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A "we are hiring" sign is displayed on a table during the San Francisco Hirevent job fair. California's jobless rate in October fell to 10.1 percent from 10.2 percent.

The California Employment Development Department released its report on October jobs in the state Friday. The federal Labor Department will release its report next week. The story is good, in a tenth-of-a-percentage-point kind of way: the jobless rate fell to 10.1% in October, from September's 10.2%.

In Los Angeles, the unemployment rate dropped to 10.5 from 10.6%.

"We're seeing everything start to move in he right direction," said Kimberly Ritter-Martinez, an economist with the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp. "We're edging closer to breaking that 10% mark."

That could happen soon if California continues to add jobs as it has at a faster clip than the nation as a whole. In the U.S. jobs are being added at a rate of 1.5%. In California, the rate is 2.1%, driven by the strong performance of the tech sector in Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area.

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Facebook earnings: The postgame analysis

Facebook Sets IPO Price At 38 Dollars A Share

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Facebook got crushed in trading after its first earnings report since its IPO.

Facebook's IPO was a disaster and its first-ever earnings report didn't really make the situation much better. The company basically met Wall Street's modest expectations, but nonetheless the core executive team — CEO Mark Zuckerberg, COO Sheryl Sandberg, and COO David Ebersman — didn't clam investors fears about the company's future. And so it was crushed in after hours trading and was knocked down more than 10 percent in trading today.

When the dust cleared, Facebook, which IPO'd at more than a $100-billion market cap, was a company with just north of a $50-billion market cap.

Ouch!

I went on "AirTalk" with guest host David Lazarus to talk about Facebook's recent misfortunes. Listen up and tell me what you think. Is Facebook with us for long haul? Or has the slide toward irrelevance begun? If the latter, then this company could be the biggest Internet economy bust of all time. 

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Comparing California's economic growth to the US and the world

US-World-CA-GDP

LAEDC

Take a look at how their economies would stack up if California and L.A. County were countries.

The Commerce Department released its figures for second-quarter U.S. GDP growth this morning. Growth was weak, and that's something to worry about. But it's also an opportunity to compare U.S. growth with California's, and to compare California's to the rest of the world.

Conveniently, the LAEDC recently compiled this data into a nice, neat chart (above). It actually isn't technically possible to compare the GDP of a U.S. state with the GDP of a country, but for the sake of argument you can pretend that California is a country, just to get a sense of how we're doing. Besides, California's economy is so large — nearly $2 trillion in the context of a $15-trillion-plus U.S. economy — that it's routinely talked about as if it were a country.

Indeed, if it were a stand-alone economy, California would be the world's ninth largest, coming in just above Russia and just below Italy. But let's compare California to the rest of the world in terms of growth. First off, the Golden State saw growth last year that was actually better than the U.S. — 2 percent for Cali, versus 1.8 percent for the U.S. 

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