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Newsletter: California Inc.: Laboring with fewer men in the mix

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.

Looking Ahead

Stock doubts: Wall Street is still looking for signals about a possible Federal Reserve rate hike later this month after failing to get decisive data in Friday’s jobs report. Markets will be closed Monday, and traders instead may end up reacting Tuesday to what would be two trading sessions in China, where severe drops in share prices have fomented worldwide market volatility since mid-August.

New Prius: Toyota will unveil its latest Prius hybrid Tuesday at a conference in Las Vegas. Despite the company’s efforts to keep the new version under wraps, recent spy shots show Toyota will largely abandon the egg shape of three earlier Prius generations in favor of a more conventional sedan profile. The new car is sportier, with a short snout, stretched windshield and wraparound headlights.

'Late' debut: Stephen Colbert makes his long-awaited debut Tuesday night as host of CBS’ “The Late Show,” replacing David Letterman. Guests will include George Clooney and Jeb Bush. Colbert will have tech executives Elon Musk (SpaceX, Tesla Motors) and Travis Kalanick (Uber) on later in the week. On NBC, Donald Trump will be Jimmy Fallon’s guest on “The Tonight Show” on Friday.

Watching Apple: Apple Inc.’s invitation-only event Wednesday in San Francisco is expected to reveal the iPhone 6s. Observers think the company, which isn’t divulging meeting details, also may unveil the latest-generation Apple TV, a larger iPad and updates on the Apple Watch and iOS 9. The event will be held at the 7,000-seat Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, a larger venue than typically used for iPhone release announcements.

New flicks: The Hank Williams biopic "I Saw the Light," the transgender tale "About Ray" and the fact-based Dan Rather story "Truth" will be among movies debuting at the 40th annual Toronto International Film Festival, which opens Thursday. Also featured will be “Demolition,” starring Jake Gyllenhaal; Ridley Scott’s “The Martian,” starring Matt Damon; and Rob Reiner’s “Bring Charlie.”

The Agenda

Today's Business section puts a microscope on the labor market. Millions of workers who dropped out of the job market during the last economic slump were supposed to jump back in once things turned around. But more than six years after the Great Recession ended, the missing millions are increasingly looking as if they’re gone for good

Story Lines

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

Salary gap: California's new Fair Pay Act, which awaits Gov. Jerry Brown's signature, may be the nation's most aggressive attempt yet to close the salary gap between men and women. It ensures that male and female employees who perform "substantially similar" work receive equal pay, even if their job titles aren't the same or if they work in different offices for the same employer.

DreamWorks decamps: DreamWorks Studios, the production house of Steven Spielberg, is expected to part with the Walt Disney Co. next year when the companies’ marketing and distribution pact expires. Partly, Disney had moved away from the adult dramas favored by Spielberg’s firm. Among DreamWorks’ potential new homes is Universal Pictures, a studio with which Spielberg has had a long, fruitful relationship.

Uber lawsuit: Uber drivers scored a victory when a federal judge ruled that they could move forward with a class-action lawsuit that seeks to designate them as employees, not independent contractors. The decision could affect other companies in the fast-growing on-demand economy, in which customers use mobile apps to order services such as car rides and home-delivered groceries.

The cruelest month: Stock investors hoping for a bit of relief after a rough August, take warning: September is historically a bad month for stocks, and this one offers a few more potholes than usual. September is the only month of the year in which the Standard & Poor’s 500 index has fallen more often than risen since World War II. It’s also the month that has produced the worst average return.

What We’re Reading

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

China turmoil I: The New Yorker attempts to make sense of recent economic and financial turmoil in China. Easier said than done, though. Many analysts don’t trust official figures, and policy-making in China is an opaque process, to put it mildly.

China turmoil II: For its part, the Economist says doomsters go too far in discussing the importance of Chinese stocks. “The property market is far more important to China’s economy than the equity market is,” the magazine says, noting that real estate represents about a quarter of economic activity.

Tech bubble: Vanity Fair delves into Silicon Valley’s struggle with deciding if we’re in another tech-stock bubble. Venture capitalist Marc Andreessen says we’re not. Others say wake up and smell the inflated valuations.

Ad blocking: Apple is about to make ad blocking a key part of its software. MondayNote.com says that’s good news for users, making for a more streamlined browsing experience. But it’s bad news for marginally profitable websites, which means most of them.

Driverless cars: The New York Times looks at how Google has hit a roadblock in the form of humanity. It turns out that Google’s driverless cars do a pretty fair job of navigating roads. Add human drivers to the mix, though, and accidents happen.

For the latest money news, go to www.latimes.com/business. Until next time, I'll see you in the Business section.


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