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April jobs report: job growth beats forecasts; wage growth disappoints

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Employers added a solid 263,000 new jobs to the US economy in April — once again surpassing economic forecasts, according to the latest jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

All the new hiring in April, plus an increase in people leaving the labor force, pushed the already super-low unemployment rate down even further, to 3.6 percent. That’s the lowest rate of unemployed Americans recorded since December 1969.

Yet the smaller pool of available workers didn’t translate to much higher pay: Workers only got an average hourly pay raise of 6 cents in April. A month earlier, wages rose a meager 4 cents.

The new jobs report shows that the US economy is continuing to expand, but without middle- and working-class families seeing much of the benefit. Job security is the one advantage employees can count on these days.

Low unemployment and high job creation means that nearly every American who wants to work and is able to has snagged a job by now. And those who lose their jobs, or decide to leave, probably won’t have a hard time finding another position.

Most of the new jobs created in April were positions in business services, construction, health care, and social assistance.

While all the new hiring is good, the numbers are not as great as last year. The average monthly job growth in the past three months was about 169,000, which is lower than the 223,000 monthly average during the same period in 2018. The drop isn’t alarming; it just suggests that the current labor shortage is making it hard for employers to fill all the open positions.

But with such a tight labor market and rising productivity, workers should expect much bigger pay raises than they’re getting.

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Businesses are being super stingy

Even though Americans are finding jobs pretty easily, they still aren’t seeing the so-called “economic boom” reflected in their pocketbooks.

April was another month with disappointing wage growth.

Private sector workers (excluding farmworkers) got an average 6-cent hourly raise, adding up to an average hourly pay of $27.77. In the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have only increased by 3.2 percent, and that doesn’t even take inflation into account.

The latest pay data suggests that workers and labor unions will continue to strike to force businesses to boost wages.

Slow income growth has been the weakest part of the US economy in its recovery from the Great Recession. Wages have barely kept up with the cost of living, even as the unemployment rate dropped and the economy expanded.

April’s 6-cent average hourly wage hike suggests more of the same, despite a surprising 10-cent jump in February.

Over the past year, the cost of food and housing has gone up, so paychecks have had to stretch further. But because of recent falling gas prices, the annual inflation rate has fallen to 1.9 percent, compared to a high of 2.4 percent in 2018 (based on the Consumer Price Index).

So when you take inflation into account, workers’ real wages only grew about 1.3 percent within the past year. That’s faster than they’ve been growing since the recession started in 2007, but it’s still pitiful when you compare it to the sky-high payouts corporate CEOs are getting.

Frustration over stagnant wages is also the major underlying factor behind widespread worker strikes across the country in places like California, Illinois, and Missouri. Last month, 31,000 supermarket employees went on strike in the Northeast to reverse proposed pay cuts and rising insurance premiums. The Stop & Shop strike in mid-April was the largest private sector work stoppage in years. After eight days with empty supermarkets, the company agreed to scrap its plan.

Some economists are confident that wages will start to pick up if this trend continues. “[T]he sharp increase in the number of working days lost to strikes over pay and benefits over the past year suggests that employees increasingly recognize that the balance of power has shifted in their favor,” Ian Shepherdson, chief economist for the research firm Pantheon Macroeconomics, wrote Friday in an analysis.

The widespread labor unrest underscores how the Republican tax cuts did little to help working-class families, despite all the promises from congressional Republicans.

In response, voters in some states have forced businesses to give low-paid employees a raise.

In November’s midterm elections, voters in Missouri and Arkansas overwhelmingly approved ballot measures that will raise the minimum wage for nearly 1 million workers across both states. And as a result of the new laws, low-wage workers in 19 states got pay raises on January 1.

Those laws have helped boost wages so far in 2019, but not enough.

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Lil Nas X and Wrangler’s “Old Town Road” clothing line inspires country music fan backlash

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“Old Town Road” star Lil Nas X’s latest move is into fashion, courtesy of a collaboration with Wrangler, the legacy denim and apparel brand that’s become a signature element of the Western aesthetic.

The chart-topping rapper has partnered with the company to launch a capsule clothing collection inspired by his hit song and featuring graphic T-shirts, jeans, and other denim apparel. The collaboration is essentially an extension of one of the most memorable lyrics in “Old Town Road,” which shouts out Wrangler by name: “Cowboy hat from Gucci / Wrangler on my booty.”

Wrangler describes the capsule collection, which launched May 20, as “fresh remixes of classic Wrangler styles for the kind of modern cowboy that can’t be put in a box.”

That’s a cheeky reference to “Old Town Road” itself, which sparked an intense debate over whether the song counts as country music when it debuted on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart in March, and was subsequently removed. Despite its references to established Western themes and imagery — the song’s lyrics revolve around a lone cowboy riding his horse into the sunset, after all — Billboard said the song “does not embrace enough elements of today’s country music to chart in its current version.”

Some country music fans and industry observers agreed, arguing that “Old Town Road” qualifies more as hip-hop than country. Others criticized Billboard for feeding rigid ideas about who or what qualifies as country enough, and suggested that Lil Nas X’s race played a part in the song’s reclassification; the fact that Lil Nas X is a black teenager from Atlanta and country is a predominantly white genre did not go unnoticed.

The song quickly became the catalyst for an industry-wide discussion about the definition of country music and racially tinged gatekeeping within the genre. It also became the top song in the country, and has now been No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks straight.

Just like the song itself riled some country music fans amid an outpouring of support for Lil Nas X from his own expansive fanbase, the rapper’s collaboration with Wrangler has met with a polarized response.

The Lil Nas X capsule collection is clearly intended to celebrate and capitalize on the success of “Old Town Road.” Although many Lil Nas X fans have expressed interest in buying the collection, Wrangler is also facing criticism from some consumers, many of whom are threatening to boycott.

Much of the backlash is playing out on social media, where Wrangler has received thousands of comments from customers expressing anger and “disappointment.” (It is unclear if customers have also been contacting the company via other, less public methods; Vox has reached out to Wrangler for comment.) And much of the current conversation revolves around how Wrangler seems to be promoting inclusivity by branching out from its reputation as a brand worn by cowboys and farmers.

Two recent Instagram posts from Wrangler showcasing items from its Lil Nas X collection have received more than 1,000 comments each. While plenty of people have commented on how awesome it looks or asking questions about where to buy, several have declared that the “Old Town Road” items are “ruining the cowboy name that y’all have.”

“Wranglers are to be worn by cowboys and farmers not rappers this is very disappointing,” reads one representative Instagram comment.

Some commenters have more explicitly mentioned race — or called out others’ racism.

“This is the dumbest thing i have seen all day,” one user wrote. “Wtf @wrangler? Why is it about diversity and equality ? There jeans. Quit playin politics.”

Lil Nas X, for his part, seemed mildly surprised by the response.

These comments are in the same vein as those used by some country music fans to describe “Old Town Road” when the song made its chart debut, arguing that rappers have no place in the genre (often while neglecting to acknowledge modern country’s own hip-hop influences). Lingering over this debate is race, which many Instagram users have called out in the comments on Wrangler’s posts. Country music is perceived as an insular, predominantly white genre, while Lil Nas X is a black rapper who draws influences from black artists and musical styles.

But Wrangler’s continued support of Lil Nas X is clear; the brand has been actively responding to its detractors on social media, simply repeating on that is devoted to creating high-quality products for all of its customers.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the drama over the Lil Nas X collection has only served to draw more attention to it. Some pieces have already sold out, like a pair of shorts that say “Wrangler” on the booty, in keeping with the lyrics of “Old Town Road.” Considering that items in the collection cost between $39 for a graphic T-shirt and $129 for a pair of jeans, the outcry, at least from Wrangler’s perspective, seems to have paid off.

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20 Times People Snapped Something Truly Exceptional and Shared the Pics With the World

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We are living in the world that is full of surprises where every single day is a new chance to see something so unusual that it makes you doubt your own vision. A treble clef in a bag of fries, a cat whose fur went gray only on his ears, or a person with 6 fingers — these are just a few extraordinary sights that made people reach for their phones and take a pic.

Here at Bright Side we can’t wait to share our list with you of pics showing the standout things people snapped on their ordinary days.

20. Someone found a treble clef in their fries.

19. The pattern on this dog’s chest resembles a cat’s silhouette.

18. Someone saw a landscape on the bottom of their coffee mug.

17. This stone looks like a pile of mini chocolate bars.

16. This cloud looks like a shark.

15. “This stick I found looks like a burning torch, flame included!”

14. “My sweater sort of matches my pillowcase.”

13. “This truck is carrying nothing but a toy dump truck.”

12. “My empanadas have the filling stamped into them.”

11. “I randomly found the tiniest snail I’ve ever seen! (standard bobby pin for scale)”

10. “My cat has double fangs on both sides.”

9. “This tree near my school track has absorbed a fence and shows the pattern on its bark.”

8. “This is an X-ray of my hedgehog.”

7. “My 12-year-old sister made this perfect cake on her first ever try making one.”

6. “I won every single prize on this lottery ticket.”

5. “I made a giant cardboard statue of my face.”

4. “My cousin’s wedding dress from last night has its own pockets.”

3. This is one million dollars in $10 bills.

2. “A customer came in and let me take a picture of her hands that had 6 fingers on each.”

1. “My aunt’s cat’s ears grayed to here a couple years ago and haven’t changed since.”

Have you ever spotted something truly rare? Did you manage to take a picture of the unusual sight?

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#ELLEFashionCupboard : The Team Show You How To Wear Camel

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The trend is Camel. Camel is back, and it’s spearheading this season’s Seventies revival. Wear it your way with denim, tailoring and texture.

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