Newsletter: California Inc.: One small step for Hollywood, one giant leap for Ryan Gosling


Welcome to California Inc., the weekly newsletter of the L.A. Times Business Section.

I’m Business columnist David Lazarus, and here’s a rundown of upcoming stories this week and the highlights of last week.

Impressive economic news on Friday: The unemployment rate fell to 3.7%, the lowest level since 1969. However, average hourly pay in September increased just 2.8% from a year earlier, one tick below the year-over-year gain in August. Stocks suffered losses on the news as it raises the likelihood the Fed will continue its campaign of raising interest rates.



Columbus Day: Monday is Columbus Day. Financial markets are open for business, but no economic reports or stats are scheduled to be released.

Consumer prices: The latest take on the consumer price index will be given Thursday by the Labor Department. In August, consumer prices rose less than expected as increases in gas and rents were offset by declines in healthcare and clothing costs.

Budget deficit: The Congressional Budget Office serves up the latest news on the federal budget deficit Thursday. In August, thanks to tax cuts and increased spending, the monthly shortfall hit $211 billion, nearly double the gap during the year-ago month.

Giant leap: Early buzz puts “First Man,” opening Friday, as an awards front-runner. The film, starring Ryan Gosling, tells the story of Neil Armstrong, who took a long trip to say some famous words. Here’s the trailer.


Thanks to President Trump’s tariffs, these are good times for the steel industry. Monday’s Business section notes that this doesn’t necessarily mean better conditions for workers. Steel companies, while supportive of the tariffs, can’t be certain the lucrative new protections will stick around. So even in this time of sudden prosperity, some analysts say, they must be disciplined with worker pay and benefits.


Here are some of the other stories that ran in the Times Business section in recent days that we’re continuing to follow:

Prius defect: Toyota is recalling 2.4 million hybrid gas-electric cars, mostly Prius models, around the world to fix an electronic defect that causes the vehicles to suddenly lose power and could “increase the risk of a crash.” Hundreds of Prius owners have filed complaints with dealers, the government and the news media. The Times first disclosed the problem in a series of stories earlier this year.

NAFTA redux?: President Trump lauded the new trade accord with Canada and Mexico as the most important ever for the United States and “a historic win” for American farmers, manufacturers and autoworkers. But while the overhaul contains substantial updates to the North American Free Trade Agreement, few trade experts see the newly negotiated deal as fundamentally different.

Wine and cheese: Some U.S. industries, however, did benefit from the newly named U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, including wine makers that will have a better chance getting their product on shelves in one Canadian province and dairy farms in Wisconsin and upstate New York that will be able to resume exports mostly for cheese and yogurt production.

Times Square L.A.: Even in a time of roaring apartment construction in Los Angeles, the new $500 million Circa complex near Staples Center, L.A. Live and the Los Angeles Convention Center is hard to miss. Its twin 35-story towers and massive block-long video display on Figueroa Street will bring a Times Square vibe to one of L.A.’s busiest urban recreation zones.

Legal opinion: Disneyland Resort would not be subject to an Anaheim ballot measure that requires all hospitality businesses that accept a city subsidy to pay workers a living wage, according to a legal opinion by the Anaheim city attorney. Measure L was placed on the Nov. 6 ballot by unions that represent resort workers in hopes that the initiative would boost the pay for many of its 30,000 workers.


And some recent stories from other publications that caught our eye:

The bigger picture: In case you missed it, the New York Times detailed in a 13,000-word article how the real estate empire of Donald Trump’s father was the foundation of the president’s success — and how alleged tax fraud contributed to his fortune. Here is the New Yorker’s take on Trump in light of the revelations: “He is a shameless flim-flam man with practically no regard for the truth or the quaint notion that wealthy people like him have a civic duty to pay their fair share of taxes.”

Stealth hack: Bloomberg comes on strong with an investigation into China’s efforts to hack U.S. tech giants with a tiny computer chip. “The chips allowed the attackers to create a stealth doorway into any network that included the altered machines. Multiple people familiar with the matter say investigators found that the chips had been inserted at factories run by manufacturing subcontractors in China.”

Snap chat: Remember the disastrous Snapchat redesign? Snap Inc. co-founder and CEO Evan Spiegel does. Business news site Cheddar got a hold of a staff memo in which he lays out what went wrong and how to make it right, finding insight in the zoological world. “We rushed our redesign, solving one problem but creating many others. In the wild, cheetahs can only run so fast for so long (around 30 seconds). Then they stop, rest, and take time to reassess their environment.”

Short-term gig: CEO tenure is growing shorter, the Wall Street Journal finds, and maybe that’s a good thing. “It eventually becomes a situation where the CEO surrounds themselves with a lot of ‘yes’ people,” says one expert. “At a certain point, there are diminishing returns.”

Cough, sniff: As flu season arrives, Popular Science reminds us of the “forgotten pandemic” of the Spanish flu, which struck a century ago and killed about 50 million people. “Our blasé attitude toward the flu can have incredible consequences. Last winter, according to a new analysis from the CDC, more than 80,000 Americans died of the flu. That’s roughly twice the number of people who died from car accidents.”


That text message you got last week from President Trump? Wired explores the long, strange history of government officials trying to reach out and touch Americans in cases of emergency. The Trump text also brings to mind a few classic public service announcements, such as this one, this one and this one.

For the latest money news, go to Mad props to Laurence Darmiento for helping put this thing together.

Until next time, I’ll see you in the Business section.