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California's Unemployment Rate is in the Double Digits; G-20 Takes Place in London; Ultimatum For the Ailing Auto Companies: What That Means For You; Unemployment Has Reached 8.5 Percent

Aired April 4, 2009 - 13:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN HOST: Welcome to "YOUR MONEY." I'm Christine Romans here in New York.

An incredibly busy week from Detroit to Washington to London. I'm all alone here in New York because Ali's coming to you from Los Angeles. Ali, we're like the bi-coastal anchor couple this week.

ALI VELSHI, CNN HOST: I miss you out here.

ROMANS: I know.

VELSHI: But California's a really, really important part of this story. From a housing perspective, we have seen some of the biggest losses in home prices, home values, in California. In the last year- and-a-half, we've also seen some of the largest foreclosure numbers and the jobless number. California is one of a handful of States with an unemployment rate in the double digits right now.

And on top of that, we've got the G-20. You just mentioned London; a gathering of world leaders in London. Did President Obama get what he wanted and is that useful to us here in the United States? We'll get a full G-20 report as only Richard Quest can deliver.

ROMANS: Oh, and he delivers every time, doesn't he?

VELSHI: He does.

ROMANS: Also ahead, GM and Chrysler, they have been warned. We'll find out what the ultimatum for the ailing auto companies means for your job, your car payment, and your warranty.

VELSHI: But the big, big, big story today is the unemployment report. Unemployment in this country now stands at 8.5 percent. That is the highest in more than 25 years. More than 5 million jobs have been lost since the start of this recession. And even as Wall Street shows some recent signs of a rebound, the staggering job losses mean that many Americans have yet to see any glimpse of a real recovery.

Let's break this down by month. Let's take a look at what we've got. We have the unemployment rate and the unemployment report for the month of March. But let's go back a few months to October, where we really started to see the heavy job losses after the credit losses set in: 651,000 jobs lost in October, 655,000 in November, 681,000 in December. Look at January, the worst of them all so far, 741,000, back to 651,000 in February, and then up again. Boy, Christine, I was so hoping that March would show a lower number, some indication that we were trending away from these high, high unemployment numbers. But that's not even the full story, Christine. When you break it down further, it becomes a lot more relevant to people.

ROMANS: It's absolutely true. Ali, the work week, you can feel this at your job if you have your job. The work week is just over 33 hours a week now. Think of that. That work week keeps shrinking because companies don't have enough business to keep you employed full time. They're trying to cut hours so they don't have to cut as many jobs.

You look at some of the job loss by sectors, you're actually seeing a gain for housing -- for health care, rather. A little bit of a gain, 14,000 jobs. That doesn't even make a dent into the losses you're seeing elsewhere. Construction, manufacturing, business services, even government jobs lost jobs in the month. And the government says in its report, Ali, point-blank: vast job loss across almost all sectors. It's clearly, clearly something that continues to be a problem.

The pace of the declines over the past five months show that you're right, Ali, after that credit crisis in the fall, companies are really throwing in the towel.

VELSHI: Now we're going to give you some real specific advice on this show, things you should do immediately if you're looking for a job and some sense of where might jobs be geographically and by industry. But even as you indicated those places where there has been job growth in the last year or so, in government, in retail, in education and in health care, even those are slimming down.

So you cannot expect that your job is likely to come back. You have to be prepared for this to be going on longer and you being able to perhaps retrain or move somewhere else to get a job.

ROMANS: One job that is not coming back is Rick Wagoner's job. He is the CEO, the former CEO of GM, of course. And an ultimatum from the White House this week, Ali, to GM and Chrysler, look, we're going to give you financing for 30 days for Chrysler, 60 days for GM, but you've got to get your house in order, because this is your last, last chance.

VELSHI: And that's a very, very big deal. As you know with the three U.S.-based automakers, Ford has been in the healthiest position of the three, not having to take any government money. But they sort of started a downsizing or a right sizing back in 2005. General Motors was on its way to doing such a thing, but this credit crisis has hit all automakers, not just U.S. automakers, as people are not buying cars, maybe because they can't get the credit they need to do so, maybe because buying a car isn't your priority if you think you might be losing your job or you have already lost your job.

General Motors has got to come up with a plan for viability. All of the auto makers were asked for one in February. They came up with one and the White House has come back to General Motors and Chrysler and said, these plans are not likely to work. In the case of Chrysler, it's looking for an alliance with Fiat, but there are a lot of are observers who say they're not entirely sure why a combination of Chrysler, which is a very troubled company, with quality issues, with production issues, and Fiat would actually make a company that would work and be viable.

So it's entirely likely that in the next 30 to 60 days, we're going to be talking a lot more about the auto industry. What is that going to mean to you and your job and your community, which in many cases is depending on the spending of auto dealership?

ROMANS: And your warrantee.

VELSHI: And your warrantee.

ROMANS: The government is stepping so that it can back up the warranty with GM and Chrysler, so you'll be comfortable to still buy a car in that period. I want to read something in the "Detroit Free Press," Ali, because I think it is very telling about just how monumental that move was this week. Quote, "not since President Franklin Roosevelt considered taking control in Ford Motor Company in 1943 from the failing Henry Ford has the federal government pushed for such sway in the management of Detroit's automakers. The tack suggests a hard-nosed approach from the Obama administration toward the automakers, bond holders and the UAW."

There was a little bit of concern, frankly, about, wait, how come they're being so tough on the blue collar auto industry and not on the white collar banking industry? But Ali, when you dig into it, it's interesting, Timothy Geithner, the Treasury secretary, this week, said he would, if he had to -- he would remove a bank CEO. And they have changed much of the board of Citigroup and also they've named the CEO of AIG, Freddie -- Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae.

This is an incredibly interesting time right now, with the government with such management over private industry.

VELSHI: That leads us to another big thing. The president in London for the G-20 and the idea of how much oversight over industries should governments have? How much regulation of industry should governments have, given how much they've intervened financially?

ROMANS: Let's bring in our very own Richard Quest, host of "Quest Means Business" and talk about this G-20 conference. Richard, a couple of questions. How did President Obama do on the world stage his first time out? And did he get what he wanted? And is capitalism wounded here and how badly? I mean, gosh, calling for an end to the old Washington consensus? Sarkozy talking about turning the page on the Anglo-American dominance of world markets.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, there's a lot there that we need to dissect surgically and slowly. First of all, your question, how did President Obama do on the world stage? Look, what did you expect him to do? Spit on the carpet and not know which knife and fork to use? The president did very well, thank you. He came with a large entourage of some 500 security and staff and they set out their agenda. Everybody knew what the U.S. wanted. They wanted more on stimulus. They didn't want the global regulator. They did want some things and not others. I don't think they got everything. I think they may well regret some parts of it. But in terms of President Obama himself, he was, in many ways, a cornerstone of that conference, because he had to accept that the U.S. -- the U.S. markets were largely responsible for the crisis we are in.

He did so with grace and with gratitude, and then they moved on. And you had so many questions, I completely forgot the other one.

VELSHI: I'll pick one up. It's Ali here. We were making a little fun of you last year because you always happen to find yourself at these major world events, where they have fantastic cocktail parties. But really, there were many people who thought this would amount to not much more to either a cocktail party at best and at worst a drubbing for the United States. And there does seem to have been much more that came out of this. Certainly markets liked what happened.

QUEST: I think the real problem was the media wanted it to be a big blast, I think. I actually have always believed that something substantive would come out of it, because I've been in the G-20 in Washington, and I've seen the positions. They knew -- we hear one phrase again and again and again: whatever it takes for however long is necessary.

Now, if you are a policy maker, you don't use those sorts of words unless you intend to back it up by actions. We can argue about whether they're the right actions, 1.1 trillion by the IMF, greater regulation, tax -- beating up on the tax havens. But at the end of day, they had to do something along those lines. They had to be seen to be taking action.

And the reaction that I've seen and you've seen in the markets is it wasn't as much as it could have been. It was more than expected. It's a start, not a finish. And they're moving in the right direction.

Now, I don't know about you, but here on the "Quest Means Business" set, we have a little bell. That's not a bad deal to my way of thinking.

ROMANS: I'm telling you, Richard and Ali, I really do think there was real work done there. And Ali and I had a conversation earlier this week about come on, this day of modern technology, why are they getting on a plane. They're all getting in the same room in all of this. Listen, I really think some work got done there, and I think they showed a global face.

I do want to ask quickly this idea that American style capitalism is wounded and that we're turning a new page on to kind of a new era; is that overstated?

QUEST: Well, the British prime minister used the phrase Washington consensus. And that was then discussed by President Obama in his news conference. It is a term of art. It's a very specific reference to a particular type of thinking in economies that relates to trade flow. It's not like (INAUDIBLE) it is all over but the shouting.

What it means is the capitalism, the greed is good capitalism that we saw in the '90s and in the early part of this decade, is over. That there has to be -- what your president described -- what the U.S. president described as being the era of responsibility. And that is really what they're talking about. Nobody, nobody, nobody is suggesting the nationalization of markets, the over-regulation, the socialism arriving through the back door.

What they are saying is unfettered capitalism with markets run riot, that is a thing of the past.

VELSHI: A lot got accomplished there, Richard, as you said, maybe not as much as we would have liked, but more than some of us expected. I'm never going to make fun of you again for covering a conference. Great to see you, my friend. Great work covering it.

QUEST: Way, listen, listen, listen, hang on. I've got one thing to tell you.

VELSHI: What's that?

QUEST: I might be coming your way for the next G-20, which we can talk about. And, by the way, don't forget I think I'm still beating you on Tweet and Twitter names and numbers. But the next G-20 is in New York, I believe, and it is in September. And we'll be able to go hammer and thongs, face-to-face.

VELSHI: You'll be our guest; @RichardQuest on Twitter, @AliVelshi on Twitter and @ChristineRomans. Follow us all. Richard, great to see you as always.

ROMANS: All right, it's the worst jobs market in a quarter century. The three things you must do today, right now, to protect your job.


ROMANS: Six hundred sixty three thousand jobs lost in March alone. There are signs, though, of a pull in this economy, there really are. But so many of you want to know is when will we see the turnaround in the job market? Ali Velshi is holding down the fort for us in the West Coast. And in the studio with me is Lakshman Achuthan, managing director of the Economic Cycle Research Institute.

Let me ask you, first, here; you just said something in the break that I find very, very fascinating. This horrific jobs report.


ROMANS: The worst employment situation in 25 years. People running scared about some sort of permanent down shifting in the American labor market. And you say, yes, but we see little signs that a recovery could be beginning.

ACHUTHAN: Absolutely. The updated jobs numbers are telling us what we suspected, which is that this is a horrible recession. It's the most severe we've seen since World War II and it's not over. And it helps us understand and confirm that.

But in order to understand where we're headed, including the job market, we need to look at forward-looking indicators. And our longest leading indicators of the economy, which anticipated this recession which covers the entire country, bottomed in November. We couldn't see that in November, because you had to wait to see it rise, but it actually bottomed in November. Shorter looking weekly leading indicators bottomed in December. They're now at a 23-week high in their growth rate.

And after that, you have the stock market. It looks like it bottomed in March.

ROMANS: For the people who don't know, it's been up 19 or 20 percent over the past four weeks, the best four seek performance I think since 1938.

ACHUTHAN: Yes and the problem is, right, you're not sure, because the stocks can give you false signal. They've done it before. But what is very telling is that sequence. The long leading index bottoms in November. The weekly leading index bottoms in December. Then, shortly thereafter, we see a bottom in the stock market. That sequence, one, two, three, we don't see that much as a growth rate cycle.

ROMANS: Are you ready to make a call that we've seen the bottom? Or you need to see more monthly data?

ACHUTHAN: No, no, no, the bottom hasn't happened yet. It's in the next few months. But the point is that once you see the sequence occur, you're going to have the worst of the recession occur shortly thereafter. And that precedes a business cycle recovery somewhere between the next two or three months after that.

So there's a business cycle recovery in 2009. That's a big deal.

VELSHI: Lakshman, let's talk about how these job numbers break down. We've seen this every month. But when we break the unemployment numbers down by gender and by race. Let's take a look at gender, first of all. The national employment number is 8.5 percent. But for men it's higher, it's 8.8 percent. For women it's seven percent.


VELSHI: Now let's talk about that and let's look at it by race. Whites have an unemployment rate of 7.9 percent, lower than the national average. Blacks, 13.3 percent; Hispanics, 11.4 percent. Tell me a bit about these numbers? Are they unusual or are they typical? ACHUTHAN: They're generally typical. The fundamental basis of job losses during recessions is that the blue collar worker takes it on the chin every time. They never, ever dodge a recession. They always are on the front lines. And they get hit the most.

And what you see is that will end up meaning a lot of men, because men tend to work in these cyclical industries like manufacturing or construction, where women might work a bit more on education or health care, a little bit less cyclical.

When you look at race, you may have minorities working in some construction or other things a bit more than others. In this cycle, what's been unusual is that the white collar worker is losing jobs right alongside the blue collar worker, because of how this has been a Wall Street recession, too.

ROMANS: Let me bring in Brad Karsh. The perfect point to bring in him, the president of Job Bound. And he's going to help us try to figure out how to keep that job safe. Brad, thanks for joining us. You heard the dirty details of the numbers. It's a very complicated and -- frankly, actually, it's not that complicated. It is pretty much a dismal picture for people who have a job here, whether you are, as Lakshman said a blue collar job, a white collar job or whether you've been looking for a job for a long time.

What are the things people need to do to preserve their job right now?

BRAD KARSH, JOB BOUND: Sure. It's never easy and there's certainly no foolproof way to do it. But there are a couple of thins you want to start doing now, if you haven't done them already, to make sure you keep that job. One, you want to try and make yourself indispensable. That is going to mean different forms to different companies, but maybe that means you tie yourself to something that's very important to the company.

So maybe Jan is the person in accounting who knows how all of the processes work, and we couldn't possibly get rid of Jan because we wouldn't be able to bill our clients. Or Gus is the guy who understands exactly how the inventory control works. We wouldn't be able to get products out to the people we need to get them to unless we have Gus around to make sure we do that.

Make yourself indispensable. If you can tie that to some kind of money issue, allow your company to make more money, even better. That's the first thing.

The second thing you want to think about is -- go ahead.

VELSHI: I was going to say, I know you want to talk about volunteering. Tell us about that.

KARSH: Yes, I was going to say, at this point you want to have what I call sort of a bunker mentality, because what's happening is departments of 15 are becoming departments of five. And a lot of the work isn't going away. So when they're deciding who is going to get let go and who isn't, they're looking at people who can take on a lot of work. So when they do say, hey, we need somebody who is going to pitch in and help with this assignment, with this project, you want to have your hand up immediately.

When they say the work hours are nine to five, you're in there at 8:00 and you're leaving at 6:00. Now is not the time to be asking for extra vacation. Now is not the time to be asking for extra benefits, or a raise or perks. You want to have that mentality of I'm here and I'm going to do whatever it takes.

ROMANS: You say be positive. It's hard when you see your unit of 15 is now five. And a lot of people have survivor's guilt and the like. But you have to plow forward.

KARSH: You have to plow forward because, again, it's a tough time for every company. And you don't want to be hanging around with a lot of team who have poor attitudes, people who are talking about potential layoffs, or talking about how miserable the situation is, because, again, as I said, it is like that bunker. Who do you want in the bunker with you? People looking forward and in advance, not looking at the past and looking at bad things.

ROMANS: Brad Karsh, president and founder of Jobs Bound. Thank you so much. And Lakshman Achuthan, Economic Cycle Research Institute. Thank you both.

VELSHI: Well, the president's patience wears thin for General Motors and for Chrysler. What does it mean for your car payment, your warranty, you community and your job?


ROMANS: GM and Chrysler were put on notice this week. President Obama called for another overhaul of the automakers. First order of business, sacking the GM CEO Rick Wagoner. GM will get 60 days of financing and Chrysler 30 days to prove that they can run a viable business before this government will give them any more money. If they can't get it together, the alternative could be structured bankruptcy.

So is it safe now to buy a car from either of these companies? The Obama administration says yes. The government announced it will stand behind warranties for new GM and Chrysler cars. The money will come from both taxpayers and carmakers. President Obama also said the taxpayer money cannot prop up this troubled industry forever.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We cannot continue to excuse poor decisions. We cannot make the survival of our auto industry dependent on an unending flow of taxpayer dollars. These companies and this industry must ultimately stand on their own.


ROMANS: Mike Quincy is an automotive content specialist for Consumer Reports. He is our resident car guy. He knows how they work and he knows how the industry works. And Mike, we've got to tell you, this was a pretty monumental week for the car business. Is this an ultimatum for GM and Chrysler? And was it the right thing for the Obama administration to do?

MIKE QUINCY, "CONSUMER REPORTS": You know, Christine, I think that the auto companies, they don't have any more time-outs left. It's the end of the game. They have to get better. Certainly, the government can't keep propping up the industry. It all comes down to product. General Motors and Chrysler knows that that is ultimately going to be the king.

So we're going to have to see how it goes. But there are a lot of people in Detroit that know how to play this game. I hope they're going to get their act together.

VELSHI: Mike, you know, the issue is this is such a bad time to be dealing with your quality issues. Ford has been dealing with it for a couple of years. GM has some cars out there that could prove the quality case for them, if people would give it a chance. But this is not a time that people are buying cars, either because they don't have the credit available or they're worried about losing their job.

So how do GM and Chrysler prove themselves in this particular environment, when nobody seems to be buying cars.

QUINCY: Ali, I think it's a combination of things. The government is stepping up and saying, if you buy the car, we're going to back the warranties. If either of these companies go into Chapter 11, they're still going to operate. They're going to be reorganizing. Maybe they're going to get to redo their deal with the UAW.

So now is the time when the car dealerships are just begging and pleading and saying please, please come into our dealers and make a deal. We've got to move this metal out. April issue of "Consumer Reports" has all this information. We answer these questions about what do I do with the car if the car company goes out of business? What do I do if my dealer dries up and goes away?

If you tool yourself up, get all this information going, you can go and probably swing a really sweet deal.

ROMANS: There are two things here that people are concerned about. One, they're concerned about the car companies going out of business and maybe they don't want to buy one of those cars. And they're also concerned about losing their own job and they can't afford the car payment.

Two things happened this week, the government and these companies trying to convince you that both of those things are not going to be a problem. There are these payment protection plans. If you lose your job and you qualify for unemployment benefits, these carmakers are going to pay your payment for a few months. And also the government is going to stand behind the warranties.

How important are those two moves? QUINCY: I think it's very psychological, Christine. People are so worried about the economy. They're worried about their jobs and they're not going to be able to make these payments. You take the combination of the government backing the warranty. The auto companies, really started by Hyundai, they're really in the forefront of saying, hey, listen, please come to the dealership, buy the car; if you have a problem with your job, we have a safety net for you?

ROMANS: Is that a good deal for people? Is that a reason to buy a car from Ford, GM or Hyundai, that they're going to pay your bill for three or four months if you're out of work?

QUINCY: I think it helps with the whole psychology.

ROMANS: Right.

QUINCY: I think it helps people get over that fear and the what if. Whether it's people having trouble with their housing situation, their job situation, that's one way for people to have more confidence to walk into a dealership.

ROMANS: Michael Quincy, thanks so much. "Consumer Report," really appreciate it. All right, Mike Quincy, automotive content specialist with "Consumer Reports," always a fantastic fountain of wisdom for us.

California is struggling. We'll head back to Ali for a closer look at how the rest of the country can learn from California's financial crisis.


VELSHI: Welcome back to YOUR MONEY. I'm Ali Velshi, and I'm here in Los Angeles, California. From the housing market to job loss, to the fight for a state budget, California has been a case study for America's struggling economy.

CNN's Thelma Gutierrez spoke to Californians who are trying to explain the problem and some who are affected by it every day.


THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): California, the eighth largest economy in the world, cracking under pressure, with unemployment steadily climbing, the housing market in decline and a state budget that falls billions of dollars short of what it needs to stay afloat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now it's coming down to fear.

GUTIERREZ: Fear for people like Mildred Copeland (ph), who is 84 and still waiting tables after 34 years.

PROF. MICHAEL SHIRES, PEPPERDINE UNIVERSITY: Unlike the recession in the early '90s, which was driven by the collapse of aerospace in California, employees in all sectors of the economy feel like they're at risk for their jobs.

GUTIERREZ: Already tens of thousands have lost their jobs this year. In February, unemployment in California reached 10.5 percent and going up.

SHIRES: Most of the projections get us up to somewhere around 12 percent between now and this time next year.

GUTIERREZ: That translates to a loss of nearly one million jobs in the Golden State, according to several economic forecasts.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you like hash browns or home fries?

GUTIERREZ: Bad news for Mildred. She's eager to hold on to her job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You get to a time in your life when you can say I can sit back, relax a little bit and not have to worry. But it's not like that.

GUTIERREZ: Especially for California homeowners. The state has the third highest foreclosure rate in the nation, with one in every 165 homes in foreclosure. But that's not something Mildred has to worry about. Her home is paid for.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I thank god every day.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For a job, for my home that's paid for, and I don't have to worry. That's one thing I don't have to worry about.

GUTIERREZ: A good thing in a state that's in a constant state of crisis. It took a record three months for legislators to pass a budget. The stalemate brought California to the brink of financial collapse. Mildred says she doesn't like the way it's being run.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: California used to be a great place to live.

GUTIERREZ: Mildred says she's optimistic the state will make a comeback. Economic forecasts predict it will, but not before 2012.


GUTIERREZ: Experts say, the main thing driving California's economic crisis is the way our tax structure is based. Half of our general fund revenues come from personal tax income. So when people at the top tier start to hurt because of the stock market crash or the collapse in values of high-end real estate, the state fund revenues suffer as well -- Ali?

VELSHI: That woman who you had in your story, the woman who had been a waitress; I almost wonder whether people who live close to the edge, but don't carry a lot of debt are not as affected by this recession. They've sort of been living in that state for a while. There's not a room where they've had to fall.

GUTIERREZ: Ali, you're absolutely right. Maybe that's the lesson here. You look at someone like Mildred, she's 84-years-old. She's still waiting tables, but she's doing it to supplement her Social Security income. The most important thing here is that she has no mortgage. She doesn't have the monkey on her back that we all have.

VELSHI: Right.

GUTIERREZ: So she doesn't have to worry. She feels like she'll be able to move through this crisis because she lives simply. She was able to pay off her house. And she doesn't have the big worries that so many people out there have, which is mortgage.

VELSHI: We hear a lot of people telling us about their grandparents, who experienced the recession or the Depression, and how they learned the value of a dollar. That might be the silver lining to this thing, that we're going to have a new generation of people that understand how to stretch their money, and how to stay clear of as much debt as we've gotten ourselves into.

GUTIERREZ: Absolutely. I think that's Mildred's point. She says you have to learn from this crisis. You have to take it into the future and learn to live within your means and make sure that you pay off that house, so that you buy a house you can afford. She says that's really the way that she's able to sleep at night.

VELSHI: Thelma, you have a great way of taking these very complicated stories and finding people who can tell them for our audience. Thank you for that, Thelma Gutierrez.

At 10.5 percent, California's unemployment rate is well above the national average. As you can see, job losses have spiked in the state dramatically in recent years. Michael Hiltzik is a business columnist with the "L.A. Times." He joins us now. Michael, thank you for being with us.

California is and has been a boom and bust story for all of its history. Where are we now and what can the country learn from California.

MICHAEL HILTZIK, "L.A. TIMES": Well, obviously, we've come through a big boom and we've had our bust, as you said. This is the cycle that we've seen in California going back more than 100 years now. What we've seen lately is that housing affordability has come way down. That is homes have gotten cheaper, mortgage rates have gotten lower. We are almost at the point now where it makes as much sense to buy a home as it does to rent a home. And that's exactly where we want to be.

VELSHI: If you go back to the highs of the market in 2006, if you had put 20 percent down on the median home in California, your monthly mortgage payments would be about 3,000 dollars. Today, that's come down to 1,000 dollars. But you've really seen massive, massive property price drops in California. And a lot of the home prices, the home sales going on right now are people buying foreclosed homes. So we're not at the end of this yet for California.

HILTZIK: We're not at the end, but we're working through. This is -- once again, this is the way we want to see it happen. We want to see all that inventory sucked up. We want to see the foreclosed homes bought. We want to see the neighborhoods where there are a lot of foreclosures stabilize through these sorts of home purchases. And I think we're just now beginning to see that trend take place.

VELSHI: California and Arizona and Nevada were really the engines of home growth in this country. I mean, you would go to areas around Los Angeles and you would just see these subdivisions building up, these new homes and that has just collapsed entirely. That's hurt the job situation in California a great deal.

HILTZIK: Well, it's hurt because home construction was a big part of our economy and obviously, that's dried up a lot. But one thing we want to keep in mind was that this was never really a monolithic housing market. On the outskirts, what we call the inland empire, Riverside County, San Bernardino County, out in the desert, where people had to move because those were the only homes that they could afford, there's been a huge drop, a huge collapse in housing there.

In the inner city or at least the closed in neighborhoods, we haven't seen that much of a drop. We've seen much more stability in the housing market. And once again, those are good signs.

VELSHI: When you look at the things that make people feel a little more wealthy, it's your job, it's the -- it's the value of your home going up, it's the market. We've started to see that turnaround. But what we've got in California is this budget crisis. Tell me why that's different from other states. Why is California such a major concern?

HILTZIK: California has always had a dysfunctional budget process. In the state legislature to pass a budget and certainly to enact a tax increase, you need a huge super-majority. And that means that a small minority of legislators get a big veto. Year after year, we've had a lot of gridlock. (INAUDIBLE)

They've promised all of the services that we've come to expect in California, great schools, great universities, all of that sort of thing. And they've said we can have that without really paying for it. So they haven't gotten the message across that they have to raise taxes or they have to find a new tax structure. So all of that has failed and now the chickens are coming home to roost.

VELSHI: Michael, good to talk to you. Thank you very much for being with us. Michael Hiltzik is a business columnist with the "L.A. Times." You've been laid off or someone you know has lost their job, what do you do now? Grab a pen and paper. We have your ultimate layoff survival guide.


ROMANS: Already this hour, we've detailed the steps you need to take to save your job. If you've lost your job, like the 5.1 million other Americans this recession, being laid off really is just the beginning for you.

VELSHI: Louis Barajas is a personal wealth adviser, a friend of ours. He's going to lead us through what you do if you've been laid off. Louis, thank you for being with us. I think this is a shock. We know it's happening in the system, but if it happens to you, we've heard from people, they don't really know what the first steps to take off are. If you are laid off from your job, you get into panic, the fear grips you, what should you do first?

LOUIS BARAJAS, PERSONAL WEALTH ADVISER: The first thing is you need to settle down a little bit and you need to know that you need to ask for help. A lot of people have a lot of ego, a lot of pride at the beginning. They don't want to ask for help.

A lot of places they can go on the Web sites to get national help, like the Homeless Shelter director, place if you're losing your home or you can't feed your kids, there are places you can automatically go to. That's the first step, because when I am sitting down and I'm talking to people across the kitchen table, and you see tears streaming down their face, they're saying, you know, Louis, honestly, my refrigerator is empty. There are a lot of places that can help.

That's the first thing we want to take care of. First thing's first always.

ROMANS: Let me ask you something, let's talk about people who you're talking about, people who have absolutely no savings or very little savings, and for them this job loss is pretty much the end of the line. You say they've got to get an entrepreneurial spirit. What does that mean?

BARAJAS: What that means is if you can't find a job, you need to create one. The problem is that you're hearing a lot of economists talk about that you're going to get skills for another industry. That is going to take you a year or two to do that. You need help right now.

So what do you do? You become an entrepreneur, create a job for yourself. For example, my parents are blue collar workers. When they lost their job, my mom started cutting hair. My dad started going to neighbors and mowing lawns and he started fixing cars. You do what you have to do to feed your kids, pay the bill, pay your rent, whatever you can. That's what you need to do. That's why I'm talking about an entrepreneurial mindset.

VELSHI: Business consultants talk about a SWOT analysis for business. SWOT stands for Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. That's how you deal with figuring out where your business stands. You're saying you should employ that in your own life.

BARAJAS: Do that with yourself. You know, again, across the kitchen table and I'm sitting with a person, I say, tell me what special abilities you have or what are you good at doing. I worked in the automotive industry for the longest time. That's OK, I understand that. What did you do? I was good at communicating. I was good at putting things together. Or I worked on parts that I could easily do plumbing with. That's a strength.

So we have what opportunities? Maybe we go to neighbors and see who needs plumbing fixed right now. A lot of it is underground economy. They're making cash, but it's OK. We're talking about survival, right? We're talking about helping people, earning some money, getting something cash flow and releasing that stress, because they need to feed their kids, pay the rent, pay the light bill.

ROMANS: Let me ask you about this, there was a newspaper piece written about the professional narcissism that the media and, frankly, a lot of outplacement experts are suffering when they talk about how to help people who lost their job? They're talking about how to negotiate your severance and how to get longer health benefits. When you look at the numbers, just over four percent of people with a college degree are unemployed. This hits the blue collar workers, the people living paycheck to paycheck much more severely.

Do you think there's a little bit narcissism going around and that we have to really be honest about how badly the job situation is hitting different groups of people?

BARAJAS: Absolutely. We're not talking about people on -- what I call on the street, you know? Everybody's talking about Wall Street, Main Street. I talk about my street. On the street, people are the blue collar workers, people in construction, people in manufacturing, people in factories. And these people don't have a lot of resources available. I always say, if you don't have resources, you need to become resourceful. And we need to give them ideas on how to make money right now, not how to transform the industry that they're working in. The skill set they have, they can take those skill sets and create a job for themselves right now.

And the goal is to say, listen, I can create a job for myself. I can become self-employed. Maybe I can't create my own business, but at least I can become self-employed, if I've not been out of a job and I'm running out of unemployment.

VELSHI: These are good things to think about. Louis Barajas, thank you very much for making these big trends relevant to people who really need the help. Louis Barajas is a personal wealth adviser.

Big movies cost big bucks to produce. Find out why Hollywood is one business that's actually doing very well these days.


VELSHI: Well, in a time when many industries are struggling, one area is doing well. I'm here in L.A. with CNN entertainment correspondent Brooke Anderson to talk about Hollywood doing OK in this recession.

BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: That's right. You know, Ali, when the economy takes a nose-dive, typically Hollywood, specifically the movie industry, thrives. I want to take a look back to the last seven recession years. IN five of those, the box office revenue has actually increased. Take a look at that. So it's pretty darn remarkable. This year, if we're going to look at 2009, in the first ten weeks alone, the box office has increased 11 percent. And I think that's a combination of maybe quality films, like the movie "Taken," which has brought in nearly 140 million dollars domestically since being released. Also the fact that people need, people want entertainment.

VELSHI: Why does it do well in another environment? What's the thing that makes the movie industry stay sort of bulletproof?

ANDERSON: One word, escapism. People want to forget the economic stressful time. They want to forget the job uncertainty, get a little bit of a break from that. Ali, the head of the Motion Picture Association of Americas, Dan Glickman, said to go into a darkened room for two hours where nobody can find you is great therapy, particularly when times are bad. And I think there's a lot of truth to that. And you know, it is a lot cheaper than hiring a psychiatrist.

VELSHI: Prices have been going up, ticket prices, concession prices. Are people managing to afford that?

ANDERSON: People are managing to afford it. People will scrape together their dimes, their nickels, their dollars to shuttle out the movies and to take their kids to see certain films. The average movie ticket price is $7.18. Where you and I live, in bigger cities, it's going to be more costly. But this takes into account smaller towns, dollar theaters, things of that nature. It's an increase of 30 cents from $6.88.

But $7.18, when you compare that to other forms of out of home entertainment, like sporting events, like concerts, it's a pretty good deal.

VELSHI: Is the industry -- do they worry about this or do they look at those numbers you just looked at for the last several recessions and say they'll withstand it? Are they concerned at some point it could hit them?

ANDERSON: Concerned, yes, but still pretty confident. Look back at 2008, when the economic downturn was really kicking into high gear. The worldwide movie box office rose five percent to a record $21.8 billion, much of that attributed to movies that really lifted people's spirits, like superhero films "Ironman," also "The Dark Knight." We're just weeks away from the start of this summer movie season, which is expected to go gang busters with films like the new "X-Men," "Harry Potter," "Star Trek." So confidence is high at this point.

VELSHI: We have had a lot of villains over years. We've seen movies focusing on terrorists when terrorism was big. Is Wall Street the new villain? Are we going to start seeing movies with the financial industry?

ANDERSON: We are. In fact, there's a move coming late May called "Drag Me To Hell." It looks terrifying, I'm going to be honest. But it's Hollywood portraying those in the financial industry as villains. And it really reflects a real anger that people are feeling today, although this, of course, is exaggerated for dramatic effect. And we'll probably see more and more of those as time passes.

VELSHI: Are we finding, by the way, that these increases in spending on entertainment will work their way through in spending on home entertainment? Are we going to see more people renting movies as a result?

ANDERSON: Possibly. DVD sales aren't doing quite as well or rentals, but that could happen in the future, because people are certainly looking towards cheaper alternatives for entertainment.

VELSHI: A little bit of nesting, too. Brooke, great story. Thank you so much for being with us. Great to see you in person. We don't get to do that all that much.

Smokers are fed up and it's got nothing to do with cigarette bans. Find out why cigarettes are costing more than ever.


ROMANS: Well, smokers are fuming over a huge increase in the federal tobacco tax. CNN's Jim Acosta reports.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Smoke them if you've got them has become smoke them if you can afford them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't do it anymore. I'm done. I'm done. I'm not smoking anymore, after this cigarette.

OBAMA: There you go.

ACOSTA: Last February, when President Obama signed a law that expanded health care coverage for millions of children, he did so on the butts of millions of smokers.

OBAMA: In a decent society, there are certain obligations that are not subject to tradeoffs or negotiations, and health care for our children is one of those obligations.

ACOSTA: To pay for all that new coverage, starting today, the federal tobacco tax on a pack of cigarette is going up big time, from 39 cents to 1.01. Anti-smoking activists, who have been fighting the likes of Joe Camel for decades, like the smell of that.

DANNY MCGOLDRICK, CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO FREE KIDS: All the research, all the evidence shows one of the best ways to reduce smoking, particularly among kid, is to increase price. Our models suggest that almost two million kids will be prevented from becoming smokers just from this price increase.

ACOSTA: But critics argue it's a promise broken for President Obama, who said he would only raise taxes on the wealthy. And it's the poor who smoke the most. CHRIS EDWARDS, CATO INSTITUTE: If you're a pack a day smoker, that -- this 62 cents per pack increase is a 225 dollar a year federal tax increase. For people with a moderate income, that's a pretty big hit.

ACOSTA: And the tax is not a big hit with the dwindling number of restaurants that still sell tobacco product, like this Washington cigar bar just a few blocks from the White House.

BOB MATERAZZI, SHELLY'S BACK ROOM: If we get a dramatic increase in a particular brand or particular line of cigars, we'll be forced to increase the price somewhat in order to maintain our margins. So, yes, if there's a dramatic increase in a particular item, we will pass that on somewhat.

ACOSTA: The big cigarette makers have already done just that, raising their prices before the hike. Public health advocates say add that to the list of reasons for smokers to kick the habit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, it's probably time to stop. It's just getting out of hand.

ACOSTA (on camera): And Congress isn't finished with the tobacco industry just yet. The House is set to vote on a bill that would give the Food and Drug Administration the power to regulate tobacco products for the first time. That's quite a leap forward from those smoke-filled rooms up on Capitol Hill.

Jim Acosta, CNN, Washington.


ROMANS: You know, Ali, these are the kind of times where you try to find anything you can to tax to try to get more federal revenue. One thing about taxing something like this, it starts to raise questions, is addiction price sensitive? Maybe some people will quit smoking, but there are some people who, the higher price, it's not going to beat the fact that they're addicted to this stuff.

VELSHI: Yes, although increasing the price of cigarettes has really been very effective, particularly in getting rid of teen smoking, which is where all the growth was. So there's a real public health element to this. And I think there is a point with cigarettes where there are substantial increases it does makes a difference.

But I think the bigger point there is what Jim was talking about, giving the FDA the real right to regulate cigarettes and their prices. That's just not something we've done effectively in the past. It could have an interesting effect.

This idea of not having people smoke in restaurants in cities, that's really cut down smoking, too. Interesting.

ROMANS: It really has changed things, hasn't it, over the past few years? It's amazing. VELSHI: It was a busy week. Thank you for joining us. Make sure you join us every week for YOUR MONEY, Saturdays at 1:00 p.m. Eastern and Sundays at 3:00.

ROMANS: You can also logon 24/7 to Have a great weekend. Bye-bye, Ali.

VELSHI: See you, Christine.