Explaining Southern California's economy

California sees biggest unemployment claims drop in U.S.

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First-time unemployment claims fell substantially in California for the week ended October 6, according to the Labor Department.

California has seen the biggest unemployment claims drop in the U.S. That's the good news. Sort of. The bad news, according to the Labor Department, is that first-time unemployment claims rose nationally last week, to 388,000 from the previous week's 342,000 (the lowest since early 2008).

That was for last week. For the week ending October 6 (specific state data is laggy), California saw first-time claims fall by nearly 5,000 — exceeding number two Alabama by...about 4,700. 

The general view of economists is that these numbers, while below the important 400,000 number, don't represent anything close to a healthy labor market. Rather, they show a market moving sideways, with limited layoffs and firings but without much hiring.

A word of warning: This is some pretty noisy data, currently being affected by changes in seasonal hiring patterns. The Labor Department generates a four-week moving average that's less volatile. For the most recent report, it show a pace of initial claims that was little changed, at around 365,000.

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A new round of layoffs hits the L.A. Times

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The Los Angeles Times building. It's emptier than it was last week.

The first quarter of 2012 is almost over, and you know what that means: more layoffs at the Los Angeles Times. According to LAObserved, "as many as 20 people may be out" — but the business section is hiring a reporter to cover the food-and-agriculture beat. 

Layoffs have become a fact of life at the LAT, whose parent, Tribune Co., is still in bankruptcy. What appears to be going on now is that the paper is chopping back on its features and special sections, concentrating instead on news, business, sports, and entertainment — the core coverage areas. Three stand-alone weekly section, for example, were recently rolled into one Saturday section.

This happened at the same time the LAT announced the introduction of a paywall

Economic pressure on the newspaper business has caused a reversal — a slow reversal — of a trend that defined the growth of big metro dailies like the LATimes and the New York Times. The creation of additional sections covering topics like food, health, science meant that newspapers needed additional platforms for ads. This transformed broadsheets into hefty print products. The Wall Street Journal has defied this reversal, adding lifestyle sections since 2010. But that's a case of a paper that primarily covered the financial markets going for a more general interest/metro New York mix.

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