The unemployment rate in California is far higher than the national level — 12 percent versus 9.1 percent — and that's depressing for residents of the state. But there's one other state that's doing worse: Nevada, at 12.9 percent. The temptation is to put the two states in the same boat, because there are some similarities. Both California and Nevada have been hit hard by the housing crisis, which has created a kind of vast corridor of jobless construction workers between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. But California has the eighth largest economy in the world (if states could be compared with countries, which they can't), at $1.9 trillion. Nevada, by contrast, is around $130 billion.
So the idea that California and Nevada can be subjected to an apples-to-apples comparison just because they sit atop the high-unemployment tally is sort of ridiculous. Nevada may have Vegas and gold mining, but California has Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Besides have a much larger economy, California has a much more diverse and innovative economy. The housing collapse is something that Nevada may never recover from. In California's case, it could just take a while.
The debate over how much higher education leaders in California should get paid grinds on. California Watch reports:
California Faculty Association has launched a new online ad targeting pay packages for California State University executives — more backlash from the board of trustees' decision in July to pay a new campus president $100,000 more than his predecessor on the same day they approved increases in student tuition....The ad, launched last week, features Monopoly money raining down on a smiling Rich Uncle Pennybags. It links to an online petition that says CSU leaders are "out of touch" and presses for "a new pattern of public service that is appropriate for leaders of a public institution." Some 3,000 people have signed the petition so far.
The controversy stems from Elliot Hirshman, San Diego State University's new president, getting a big raise over the former president, Stephen Weber. The question is: Are college presidents really worth this kind of scratch? Especially when the state that employs them is dealing with a major fiscal crisis?
Bank of America, the country's second-largest bank (or first, depending on if you go by assets rather than market cap), is in a heap of trouble. Its CEO, Brian Moynihan, is presiding over a restructuring that's supposed to refocus the mega-bank on its core consumer business. This means massive layoffs — 30,000, according to various published reports. There's also been speculation that BofA will try to sell Merrill Lynch, the investment back it acquired after the financial crisis. But there's also speculation that Merrill would be absorbed into BofA and become something far less than the top-level i-bank it was back in the day. That's speculation for you! Heads one day, tails the next!
Countrywide is also a major factor. The subprime mortgage lender was picked up by BofA just before the financial crisis and its portfolio of bad loans is often pointed to as the biggest drag on BofA's performance. There's a nightmare scenario in which BofA puts Countrywide into bankruptcy and then witnesses federal regulators take control of the bankruptcy proceeding — and BofA.
Irvine-based Broadcom is dropping $3.7 billion to buy NetLogic Mircrosystems, in an all-cash deal. Who says there's no tech juggernaut in SoCal (with deep pockets, to boot)? This is the LA Times' David Sarno on Broadcom earlier this year: "With nearly three-quarters of its 8,300 employees devoted to electrical engineering, the company has been able to storm markets where it had little experience, often dominating them within a few years." (Bloomberg, LAT)
Blame Germany for all this stock-market volatility? With a Greek debt default looking inevitable, the big question is whether the country stays in the Euro. And if it exits, what's next for Italy and Spain? (Bloomberg)
Blame the machines for all this stock-market volatility? Hmmm…not sure. But automated trading now accounts for 60 percent of "daily turnover" in four major markets. (NYT)
It was a short week but a lively one. I kept myself busy blogging about everything I could find that was relevant to the SoCal economy. In case you missed anything, here are some highlights from this week's DeBord Report. Enjoy!