The rich get richer…

In recognition of Labor Day, one government agency put out a press release saying job prospects are getting better, while a research group released its own study saying things are still pretty crummy for wage-earners.

To hear California’s Economic Development Department tell it, the state’s job growth rate is stronger than the rest of the nation’s, and there will be an increase of 3.2 million jobs through 2010, many of them coming in the computer and health industries. “That’s on top of the 3.9 million jobs that are forecasted to become available due to typical turnover,” EDD Director Michael Bernick stated in a press release. Even better, the EDD reports, “nearly 40 percent of the new jobs in the 50 largest-growing occupations” will pay more than $20 per hour.

But the forecast wasn’t so rosy over at the Sacramento-based California Budget Project, a nonprofit think tank. Its press release was titled, “Slowdown Threatens the Economic Progress of California’s Workers and Families.” The study found that the median hourly wage in California rose 1.4 percent overall during the period from 1989 to 2001, to $15.38. Looking to the top and bottom of the social scale, the inflation-adjusted income of the poorest fifth of workers fell 5.5 percent, making $14,053 the median family income for that sector. Meanwhile, the wealthiest 5 percent of the state’s families saw a 50.4 percent increase and on average get by on $249,234. The median household income in California is $46,808.

This may all sound like a bunch of numbers, but the California Budget Project hopes the data will help press for policy changes or at least dispel myths, like the idea that the only people who earn minimum wage are high-school students. In reality, eight out of 10 workers earning between $6.25 and $7.25 an hour are adults.

Cap’s off

Besides having a really cool name, Cap Porterfield is a big name in the tax professionals field. He’s been elected to serve as treasurer for the California Society of Enrolled Agents, which is made up of tax professionals—accountants who undergo continuing education to specialize in tax law.

Porterfield said he’s excited to be chosen to keep the minutes and corporate records. “It shows the rest of the community that my peers felt that I was qualified,” said Porterfield, who has about 400 clients, most of them local businesses. He does everything from helping them maximize write-offs to representing them before the IRS.

He added that he may vie for the seat of president at a later date. The organization meets five times a year and puts on several seminars for its members.

That’s wild

Hold onto your grain sacks, folks, because September is National Rice Month. I’m not appropriately celebratory, because this is the first time in three years that I haven’t attended Rice Field Day. It was held Aug. 28 at the Experiment Station in Biggs, featuring tours, industry updates and awards.

There is still plenty of fun to be had: The USA Rice Federation is centering this year’s promotion on the fact that rice sales and awareness are steadily increasing. You can find rice wear, recipes and more at

But wait, there’s more! It’s also California Wild Rice Month, which is kind of funny because wild rice is not really rice at all but rather a different type of grain altogether. But there’s no reason rice and wild rice can’t live in harmony, as they do sometimes on dinner plates. Enjoy both throughout September.