The Sacramento region’s largest local governments will see pension costs go up by an estimated 14 percent next fiscal year, starting a series of annual increases that many city officials say are “unsustainable” and will force service cuts or tax hikes.
The increases come after CalPERS in December reduced the expected rate of return from investments, forcing local governments and other participants in the state’s retirement plan to pay more to cover the cost of pensions.
. . . Leyne Milstein, the city of Sacramento’s finance director, said the city’s pension costs will double in seven years. While city revenues have also increased in recent years, thanks in part to a strong real-estate market, they have not increased as much as pension costs in actual dollars.
“It’s not sustainable,” Milstein said. “These costs are going to make things incredibly challenging.”
U.S. consumer prices rose 0.5% in September, the largest increase in eight months. The result reflects another big jump in energy prices in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, which shut Gulf Coast refineries and caused gasoline prices to jump across the country.
The September increase in the closely watched consumer price index was the biggest one-month gain since a 0.6% rise in January, the Labor Department reported Friday.
Energy prices shot up 6.1%, led by a 13.1% surge in gasoline. Analysts believe that the impact of the hurricane will be temporary.
Core inflation, which excludes volatile food and energy, rose a tiny 0.1% in September.
Over the last year, overall prices are up 2.2%, while core inflation has risen 1.7%.
Southern California wages are rising but a new report from University of Southern California shows that’s not going to make rents more affordable in the long run.
The annual USC Casden Real Estate Economics Forecast found that rents will keep rising over the next two years because the supply of apartments is tight and not enough new housing is coming online.
In Los Angeles County, average monthly rents are expected to rise to $2,373 by 2019 — up $136 from the 2017 average.
After a decades-long battle with California’s building industry, developers who want to fast-track housing production – especially in cities that have not built enough housing to keep pace with rising demand – will be required to pay higher wages and benefits to construction workers beginning Jan. 1.
Five of 15 housing bills signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown this year include so-called prevailing wage rules for employers and contractors to pay laborers higher wages and benefits for new construction projects.
The requirements, reached after more than a year of negotiations between powerful labor groups and state Democratic lawmakers, represent the biggest expansion of union-backed pay mandates for construction workers since the late 1990s.
Ships nearly three times as large as the ones crossing before the expanded locks opened in June of 2016 are bringing tens of millions of additional dollars in tolls and a trading boom to U.S. East Coast ports, allaying some fears that investments to cater to the bigger vessels wouldn’t see enough returns.
Since the start of the year, transiting tonnage at the Panama Canal has increased by nearly 23%, canal executives say. Last week marked the 2,000th transit of a ship that wouldn’t have fit through the old locks.
. . . The widened waterway means importers as far inland as Tennessee could find it cheaper to bring in Asian goods to ports like New York, Savannah, Ga., and Charleston, S.C., rather than move them by rail and truck from West Coast ports, which handle about two-thirds of Asia-to-Americas trade.
The U.S. enjoys a giant trade surplus in scrap, including household recycling, says the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Inc. According to the trade group’s chief economist, Joe Pickard : “We’re like the Saudi Arabia of scrap.”
Now there’s a heap of trouble confronting America’s separators of paper and plastic: The biggest buyer of the stuff doesn’t want it anymore.
. . . The U.S. is the top producer of waste, according to the World Bank, and Americans have been doing a pretty good job recycling some of that. Curbside-recycling volumes have tripled since the late 1980s, surpassing 89 million tons in 2014, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s latest figures.
What most Americans don’t know is that after workers pick up and sort their recycling, a good deal travels halfway around the world. The U.S. exported $16.5 billion in scrap last year, the scrap institute says, more than any other country. Paper and plastic were about $3.9 billion of that.
Over two-thirds of America’s wastepaper exports and more than 40% of its discarded-plastic exports ended up in China last year, the scrap institute says. Paper and plastic scrap exports to mainland China topped $2.2 billion—that’s more than exports to China of wheat, rice, corn, meat, dairy and vegetables combined, U.S. census data show.
In July, China filed a notice with the World Trade Organization about its plans to limit the entry of “foreign waste.” Even before that, starting this spring, scrap shippers say, some Chinese customers hadn’t been able to renew their import licenses.
Working at home continues to grow as a preferred access mode to work, according to the recently released American Community Survey data for 2016. The latest data shows that 5.0 percent of the nation's work force worked from home, nearly equaling that of transit's 5.1 percent. In 2000, working at home comprised only 3.3 percent of the workforce, meaning over the past 16 years there has been an impressive 53 percent increase (note). Transit has also done well over that period, having increased approximately 10 percent from 4.6 percent.
. . .The same is true of Los Angeles. Despite spending more than $15 billion (2016$) building and opening an extensive urban rail and busway system, not only has working at home recently passed transit, but ridership on the largest transit system has fallen from before opening the first line.
Following Ford's announcement that it would shift more resources to electric cars, the United Auto Workers has begun talks with the automaker about the potential impact of more electric-car production on jobs.
. . . In a presentation to investors earlier this week, Ford CEO Jim Hackett said electric cars will reduce "hours to build" by 30 percent compared to internal-combustion models. If a car takes less time to build, the carmaker won't need as many workers. Settles said he has met one-on-one with Hackett to discuss the issue.