Bad, not horrible: That sums up the July jobs report, in which the unemployment rate rose to a 4-year high of 5.7 percent from 5.5 percent the previous month. But "only" 51,000 payroll jobs were eliminated, which was better than the 75,000 that economists had expected. The steepest losses, not surprisingly, came in manufacturing and construction. From the NYT:
“To workers, it’s a recession,” John Lonski, the chief economist at Moody’s Investor Service, said. “And really what matters in the end is what’s taking place in payrolls and the unemployment rate, and they’re both moving in the direction of a labor market recession. How can you argue with that?” Wage growth has stagnated for months, falling behind the rate of inflation. That means workers are effectively making less than they were at the beginning of the year.
Gas keeps falling: The Auto Club's new survey has the average price of regular in the L.A. area at $4.279 a gallon, which is 32 cents lower than last month but still $1.25 above last year. The recent drops are the result of falling oil prices, which are the result of falling U.S. demand. Moody's Economy.com economist Matt Robinson said he expected crude prices to continue drifting lower, averaging around $110 a barrel in the fourth quarter. This morning, however, oil has shot up to $128. (CNBC)
IndyMac to liquidate: That would be IndyMac Bancorp, not to be confused with IndyMac Federal Bank, which is now run by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and for the last three weeks has been the successor to IndyMac’s former banking unit. IndyMac Bancorp filed for Chapter 7 protection and a bankruptcy court is expected to appoint a trustee. Left unresolved is whether federal regulators will be able to find a buyer for IndyMac Federal Bank. (Reuters)
GM loses $15.5 billion: Almost two-thirds of that involves charges taken for job cuts, plant closings and the falling value of trucks and sport utility vehicles. Operating losses totaled $6.3 billion, which is not especially encouraging. The automakers are expected to report their July numbers later today. (NYT)
New boss at IATSE: Matthew Loeb becomes president of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, succeeding Thomas Short. "I am not leaving for political reasons or for health reasons, but rather because I have learned that life is short and there is a great deal that I have yet to experience and enjoy," said Short, who has been in the top spot since 1994. As Nikki Finke notes, IATSE has been conspicuously silent during the current stalemate between the Screen Actors Guild and the media companies.
Studios return to work: What if there was a labor dispute and nobody noticed? That seems to be the case in the movie business, which is ready to resume production after Labor Day. A month after SAG's contract expired, the guild has yet to set a strike authorization vote, most likely because there's no assurance that it would be approved by the necessary 75 percent threshold. From Variety:
TV production has remained largely unaffected by the standoff, which is now expected to drag on at least until late September. On the film side, however, work on major studio production slowed to a crawl in June as the town braced for the June 30 expiration of SAG's contract. With no end in sight, but no picket lines either, the studios are planning to start ramping up production in the coming weeks. A handful of high-profile projects, including Clint Eastwood's "Grand Torino," have already started up. "We're hopeful that there will be a deal with actors, but we have no choice but to proceed," Warner Bros. prexy Alan Horn told Daily Variety. "We can't be in a position where we don't have movies."
Dabbling at mogul-dom: Our friend Charles Cohen appears to have a winner with "Frozen River," the bleak drama about two women who become smugglers of illegal immigrants to keep their families together. Cohen, who owns the Pacific Design Center - not to mention a bunch of properties in NY - helped finance the independent film, which took the dramatic grand jury prize at Sundance. Sony Pictures Classics bought the distribution rights for $1 million. The movie, which opens today in NY and L.A., has gotten good notices, though the NYT headline should give some of us pause: "Only a Few More Smuggling Days Left Before Christmas? It’s Not a Wonderful Life."
Cher lists Malibu property: She's put her Italian Renaissance-style villa on the market for $45 million. The three-story 14,000-square-foot house has six bedrooms, seven bathrooms, a theater, gym, tennis court, pool and guest house. Oh, and it's set on 1.7 acres on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. (WSJ)