Explaining Southern California's economy

Even if we can reduce unemployment, we'll still struggle with African-American joblessness

Brian Watt and Madeleine Brand reported today on the final stop of the Congressional Black Caucus' jobs tour, which took place in Los Angeles. As they point out, the unemployment rate among African-Americans is around 16 percent, far higher than the national rate of 9.1 percent. In California, the rate for African-Americans is over 20 percent, while the overall rate is 12 percent.

If you think about this, we really have two problems rolled up into one: in California, we urgently need to reduce high general unemployment; but we also need to address the the problem of black unemployment, which is always higher than the general level. This is from the Economic Policy Institute -- in January of 2008, almost a year before the financial crisis hit:

In the best of times, many African American communities are forced to tolerate levels of unemployment unseen in most white communities. The 2001 recession pushed the white annual unemployment rate up from a low of 3.5% in 2000 to a high of 5.2% in 2003. During the same period, the black unemployment rate shot up from 7.6% to 10.8%. National recessions take African Americans from a bad situation to a worse one....In 2007, the black unemployment rate was 8.3%. This figure is still above the pre-recession low and more than twice the white unemployment rate. Goldman Sachs estimates that a new recession would increase the national unemployment rate to 6.4% by 2009. For African Americans, the unemployment rate would be expected to rise to 11.0%.

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Does the Solyndra bankruptcy mean that green energy isn't the solution to our problems?

That sucking sound you just heard was a half billion in federal loan guarantees and $1 billion in investment capital going down the tubes. Solyndra, a California solar startup, just declared bankruptcy, adding 1,100 workers to the state's already swollen unemployment rolls. 

At Forbes, Todd Woody summarizes the key business issue:

Can U.S. companies developing advanced solar technology compete against low-cost Chinese manufacturers who benefit from state support and a government policy to create markets at home and abroad for their products?

Probably not. In fact, Solyndra's bankruptcy proves that you can have an innovative product (thin solar panels), major venture funding, and government support — and still not make a go of it. Of course, solar isn't everything. Gov. Brown has put forward a renewable-energy plan that's supposedly capable of creating 500,000 jobs, and that plan encompasses a range of non-fossil-fuel sources. 

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Massive hurricane: We're on it! Massive unemployment…um, we'll get back to you on that

Arianna Huffington is ticked off that politicians can leap into action when a hurricane is bearing down on the East Coast but stall, stall, stall when it comes to attacking the dull, grinding crisis that is U.S. unemployment. A taste:

With the toll that the job crisis is taking on the lives of millions of people in this country -- from college graduates who can't get jobs to middle class families being thrown out of their homes -- this is a Category 5 disaster. In extreme cases, financial desperation has even been a reported cause in suicides. "We have noticed many more people mentioning the economy," said Eve Meyer, executive director of the nonprofit San Francisco Suicide Prevention, which has seen an increase in suicides on the Golden Gate Bridge. "We constantly hear, 'I'm going to be homeless; I would rather be dead than be homeless.'"

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Tyler Cowen wants to take on bad teachers

This is a fairly wide ranging conversation that the economist Tyler Cowen had with...the Economist magazine! Cowen has become an important voice in the popular and academic econ conversation through his blog, Marginal Revolution, and his e-book, "The Great Stagnation: How America Ate All The Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History, Got Sick, and Will (Eventually) Feel Better." 

I zeroed in on his comments about firing bad teachers, a major issue in Southern California. This has come to a head recently, as LAUSD is conducting an experiment in teacher evaluation but hasn't asked the teachers' union for input, according to this UPI report

You might not agree with Cowen's views on this controversial subject. But he's usually worth listening to. Or in this case, listening to while he drinks tea and discusses the impending crack-up of the Chinese economy.

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Why we need NFL football back in LA – even if we don't want NFL football back in LA

There are currently two competing proposals to build new stadiums and bring the NFL back to L.A. (I've blogged about this a bit already). AEG, developer of the Staples Center, is behind the one that would install our gridiron heroes Downtown. Majestic Reality would build in City of Industry, to the east of the city. In order for either of these plans to get off the ground, an NFL team needs to commit to moving in. And if one does, we'll need to figure out where it will play while the stadium is being constructed.

The Rose Bowl is often mentioned, but there's resistance on that front. There's also a potential problem with using the Coliseum. The Pasadena Star-News nicely summarizes the conflicts

The Patt Morrison Show did a segment this week about whether a new L.A. NFL stadium would live up to economic expectations, in response to a review by the Legislative Analyst's Office that concluded that Los Angeles won't realize the promised benefits of the AEG project. I'm skeptical that any new stadium will really add up to a jobs bonanza -- entertainment spending isn't powerful enough to move the needle on an unemployment rate in L.A. County that's at 12.4 percent. But there are other reasons why we might want to go with the Downtown stadium (and I hasten to point out that I'm not picking sides here, just laying out what would happen if AEG gets the thumbs up):

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