Explaining Southern California's economy

Refinery strike could mean higher gas prices

Mercer 3025

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Tesoro says it’s been planning for a strike and will continue operating two of the effected refineries, including one in Carson.

More than 800 workers walked off the job early Sunday at an oil refinery in Carson because of a labor dispute, joining workers at eight other refineries around the country. 

National strikes have been rare in the refining business. The last one happened in 1980, and it took three months to resolve. If this dispute lasts that long, analysts say gas prices could rise.

“It’s very possible we may have seen the last of two dollar gasoline in the near term,” said Carl Larry director of oil and gas at consulting firm Frost & Sullivan. “Without production from these refineries, we’re going to see tighter supply and higher prices."

Making matters worse, many refineries are switching over to summer blend gas, which is cleaner burning, but also more expensive.

Jim Burkhard, Managing Director at IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates, cautions that it is too soon to know what the effect of the strike will be, and even though the steelworkers have 64 percent of U.S. oil output in their hands, there’s still a lot of other supply.


Freelancer? Avoid these '7 deadly sins' at tax time.

taxes tax refund check

Photo by Great Beyond via Flickr Creative Commons

The organized freelancer will make sure the amount here is right.

For freelancers, consultants, actors and other self employed people, life gets complicated this time of year. Digging around for the paperwork to fill out tax forms practically qualifies as exercise.

"They have a nightmare trying to find receipts," said accountant Tristan Zier.

Zier founded Zen99 to help freelancers manage their finances, including filing their taxes.  His most important advice to freelancers: keep track expenses and receipts year round rather than pursuing a paper chase as April 15 nears.  

"When they can’t find receipts, they can’t write off their expenses," he said. "And they’re paying more money to the government instead of keeping it for themselves."

Zier and others have come up with a lists of common mistakes freelancers make at tax time. 

Here are seven don't - or, deadly sins, for freelances at tax time:


Why unions lead the $15 minimum wage fight, though few members will benefit

Rusty Hicks

Ben Bergman/KPCC

“Union members and non-union members have a strong interest in seeing our economy grow," said Rusty Hicks, the new head of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, which represents over 300 unions.

Labor unions have led the fight to raise the minimum wage in several American cities, including Los Angeles, where the City Council is considering two proposals right now that would give raises to hundreds of thousands of workers (to $13.25 an hour by 2017 and $15.25 an hour by 2019).

But few of the unions' members have benefited directly from the initiatives. So why do unions care about a $15 wage for non-union workers? 

It’s part of a long-term strategy to protect the interests of their members, labor leaders say. They also see an opportunity to raise the profile of unions after years of falling membership.

"We can’t be the movement that’s just about us," said David Rolf, an international vice-president of SEIU, who led the first successful $15 minimum wage campaign in SeaTac, the town in Washington that is home to the region's similarly named airport. 


Potential NFL stadium moves closer to going on Inglewood ballot this summer

Inglewood Stadium

Courtesy Hollywood Park Land Company

A rendering of he new stadium and complex to be built near the Forum in Inglewood was released by the Hollywood Park Land Company, Kroenke Group and Stockbridge Capital Group earlier this month.

A measure that would allow an 80,000-seat NFL-caliber stadium to be built in Inglewood could be on that city’s ballot by this summer after developers submitted almost three times as many signatures than needed for a voter initiative.

“22,216 signatures were submitted to the city clerk today,” said Gerard McCallum, project manager with the Hollywood Park Land Company. “It was unbelievable. The response was more than we could have ever anticipated.”

Normally, before construction can begin on any project there has to be an environmental review, but that can take a long time and time is something in short supply for St. Louis Rams Owner Stan Kroenke and his plan to move the team to L.A.

“We would be going through another three year project process, and the current construction wouldn’t allow that,” said McCallum, referring to the redevelopment of 238 acres of the old Hollywood Park site that was permitted in 2009.


Want a job in LA? Be a nurse, don't work in manufacturing

AIDS Healthcare Foundation Offers Free Meningitis Vaccinations

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Tom Rachal (R) receives a free meningitis vaccine from Dr. Wayne Chen at the AIDS Healthcare Foundation pharmacy on April 15, 2013 in Hollywood, California. Los Angeles County's unemployment rate is 7.9%, down from 9.2% a year ago, and once again it was healthcare that added the most jobs: 22,000.

If you want a job in Los Angeles County, you’re best off being a nurse or a hotel worker and you’re less likely to find employment in manufacturing. 

We’re getting our first look at the employment numbers for 2014, which show mostly good news: California’s unemployment has fallen to 7 percent, the lowest rate in five and a half years. (The final numbers come out in March)

The state’s job growth outpaced the rest of the country for the third straight year, though it slowed slightly towards the end of the year.

California added jobs at a 2.2 percent annual rate last year, outpacing the nation’s 1.8 percent rate. 

Los Angeles County fared the worst as far as seasonally adjusted year-to-year job gains among California's major metropolitan areas, according to The Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.: