Business & Economy

Business news

Federal regulators and fast-food companies reacted with unprecedented speed this week to the release of an undercover video that animal-rights activists shot inside a California slaughterhouse. The video — which, we'll warn you, is pretty graphic — shows employees of Central Valley Meat Co. using electric prods repeatedly on cattle that appeared unable to get to their feet.

An economic forecast out today says California’s unemployment rate will drop to single digits this time next year – sooner than originally predicted. Right now, California’s jobless rate is 10.7%. It peaked at 12.5% in 2010. The rate’s been inching down ever since.

Economist Jeff Michael is with the Business Forecasting Center at University of the Pacific in Stockton. “We see [the] unemployment rate going into single digits in mid-2013 and in the past we’ve been saying the end of 2013.”

California Lumber Sales Creep Up In Recent Years

Aug 15, 2012
Licensed using Creative Commons from Flickr user CHRISTOPHER MACSURAK / http://www.flickr.com/photos/macsurak/6195650749/

Lumber sales are up slightly in California, after hitting a record low in 2009. The 2008 collapse of the housing market devastated California's already faltering lumber industry. The housing market has been slow to recover, but new home construction has risen in the last year.

David Bischel of the California Forestry Association says that's translated into a slight uptick in lumber production. "There's been an increase in sales because there's been a small increase in housing production, our markets are very closely tied to housing markets."

Kern County Leads Nation in Employment Gains

Aug 7, 2012
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Employment in California’s largest counties rose between December of 2010 and December of 2011, but paychecks got smaller in most large counties. 24 of the 26 large counties in California saw employment increase. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics defines large counties as those with employment of 75,000 or more.

Kern County posted a 5.3 percent increase, followed by San Francisco County at 3.3 percent. Kern County’s increase was not only the largest increase in the state but in the country as well. Los Angeles County has the highest number of employed at more than 3.9 million.

California Labor Commissioner Julie Su has filed a lawsuit against a Valley farm labor contractor for unpaid wages. The case filed in Fresno Superior Court on Monday alleges Javier Diaz of Diaz Contracting committed multiple violations, including failure to provide minimum wage and overtime to employees. The lawsuit seeks over $600,000 in unpaid wages, penalties and damages affecting 129 workers.

California Leads Nation in Farmer's Markets

Aug 5, 2012
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The number of farmer’s markets in California has risen substantially. According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture survey, there are about 830 markets in the state. That’s up almost a hundred from last year.

Kathleen Merrigan with the USDA says the economy and the demand for fresh, healthy food have caused a 10 percent increase in markets nationwide.

The controversial “Buy Here, Pay Here” used car industry would face strict new regulations under several bills moving through the California legislature.

Search “Buy Here, Pay Here” on Google and the first website that pops up is “We-Approve-Bad-Credit-dot-com.” Dealers require buyers to make each month’s loan payment in person. If they can’t, their cars are often repossessed on the spot. Democratic State Senator Ted Lieu says his bill would apply similar regulations for typical auto lenders to the Buy Here, Pay Here industry.

Numbers released today from Fresno State's Craig School of Business show the San Joaquin Valley's economy is slowing. The San Joaquin Valley Business Conditions Index dropped for the second straight month in July, to 51.6, down from 55.4 in June.

The numbers remain above growth neutral, meaning the economy is still expected to grow in the next three to six months, businesses aren't as optimistic about the future as they were in June. The lower July numbers reflect a drop in new export orders and business confidence.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The Central Valley is the agricultural center of California, producing a wide range of fruits, vegetables, and other commodities - all worked by the hands of thousands of farm workers. However, these crops may be threatened this season with a reported decrease in the number of workers. 

It used to be a rite of passage for teens, getting a summer job at a fast food restaurant or the mall. But with an economy that continues to struggle, the state's teen unemployment rate is around 36 percent. But there are several new programs that aim to help teens get a taste of life in the workforce, and local companies that are working with non-profits and the government on this issue. Juanita Stevenson reports on how a summer job changed one teen's life.

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