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Slow employment gains in March as only 103,000 jobs added to U.S. economy



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Job growth stumbled in March, with only 103,000 Americans finding new jobs, according to data released Friday by the Department of Labor.

The number was a marked change from February’s blockbuster figure of 313,000 new jobs — which the Bureau of Labor Statistics just revised upwards to 326,000. That total was attributed to unseasonably warm weather creating favorable conditions in sectors such as construction and hospitality.

March’s figures were well below analysts’ expectations and not strong enough to push the unemployment rate below 4.1 percent, where it has remained for the last six months.

Wages continue to be the outlier in the employment data, with hourly earnings posting a moderate gain to 2.7 percent annual growth.

That figure would have to reach 3 percent in order for the Federal Reserve to consider taking action against possible inflation.

Despite March’s disappointing numbers, the employment situation remains robust and represents the longest streak of monthly jobs gains on record.

“Over the first quarter, hiring averaged 202,000, which is above the average for all of last year,” said senior economic analyst, Mark Hamrick. “If we begin to see signs that momentum is truly slowing in coming months, that’s something different, more worrying.”

Wall Street reaction to the BLS data was muted, with markets already under pressure following President Donald Trump’s announcement late Thursday that he planned to impose $100 billion of additional tariffs on Chinese imports.

“Risks appear to be rising in both the short and long-term,” said Hamrick. “If tariffs were fully implemented, they would have the potential to raise inflation risks, making the Federal Reserve’s job more challenging. Meantime, even under a better case scenario, a high degree of uncertainty has been injected into the business environment — which is never a plus.”

 Employees work at the Metal Box International toolbox factory in Franklin Park, Illinois, on Feb. 21. Tim Aeppel / Reuters file

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Missouri Gov. Mike Parson and wife test positive for coronavirus



Missouri Gov. Mike Parson and his wife, Teresa Parson, both tested positive for coronavirus and have cancelled events as they isolate, his office said Wednesday.

The couple were tested earlier in the day after Teresa Parson began to exhibit mild symptoms, though the governor “feels healthy and is displaying no symptoms,” according to a statement. Mike Parson, who is seeking re-election this fall, has cancelled his forthcoming campaign events.

“All official and campaign events have been canceled until further notice,” the governor’s statement said. “As a precautionary measure, the Governor’s staff has been tested and is awaiting results.”

Both Parsons posted videos to their official Twitter accounts Wednesday to offer details on their conditions. Teresa Parson said she was fine and assured residents that she was isolating.

“I did get up with a few cold-like symptoms and decided maybe because we are among the public so much, I should be tested,” she said.

Mike Parsons told Missouri residents in his Twitter update that it had been “quite a day,” but that the couple was doing well. The governor said his preliminary results came back positive and they were beginning the process of quarantining as he awaits confirmation.

He added that he and his wife may have to isolate separately but that he plans on continuing with his duties.

“My concern is the first lady, her health, to make sure that she is OK,” the governor said.

Missouri has faced scrutiny in recent days as the state’s Lake of the Ozarks region hosted a large motorcycle rally last weekend, despite social distancing concerns. A similar rally that drew hundreds of thousands of bikers in South Dakota has been linked to more than 200 coronavirus cases and at least one death.

The 14th annual Bikefest Lake of the Ozarks started Wednesday, Sept. 16 and ran through Sunday, Sept. 20. Previous rallies drew over 100,000 to the area, NBC affiliate KSDK reported.

The event featured vending areas, more than 50 live shows, over 300 “biker-friendly” bars, restaurants and hotels, and a Harley Davidson giveaway, according to its website. Videos posted online of the event showed few masks were worn by attendees.

Another Missouri event that seemed to flout coronavirus guidelines was a crowded Memorial Day party, also at Lake of the Ozarks, where a viral video showed little social distancing. Health officials urged attendees to self-isolate following the event to prevent community spread of the coronavirus during the pandemic.

Missouri has 116,946 confirmed coronavirus and 1,947 deaths as of Wednesday afternoon, based on the state’s health dashboard. The governor has not imposed a statewide mandate that would require residents to wear masks in public, despite recommendations from the White House’s coronavirus task force.

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Brexit LIVE: Barnier angrily rejects transition extension – even if free trade deal agreed



MICHEL BARNIER has rejected any possibility of the UK extending the transition period past the end of the year.

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Florida AG calls for investigation into Bloomberg-backed felon voting rights effort



Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody on Wednesday called for an investigation into an effort backed by Mike Bloomberg to help restore the voting rights of thousands of felons ahead of the November election.

The former New York City mayor partnered with the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition to help raise at least $16 million for felons to pay off outstanding legal fines and fees in order to regain the right to vote. The effort is targeting around 32,000 former prisoners who owed less than $1,500 in restitution fees and had already registered to vote.

“Today, I sent a letter to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Federal Bureau of Investigation into potential violations of election laws,” Moody said in a statement on Wednesday. “And I have instructed the Statewide Prosecutor to work with law enforcement and any Statewide Grand Jury that the Governor may call.”

While she does not explicitly call for an investigation into Bloomberg himself, her letter to the two agencies cites a Washington Post article on his involvement. She said that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis asked her to review the matter.

Florida voters passed a measure in 2018 to restore voting rights to felons who have not been convicted of murder or sexual offenses and who had completed their sentences. Republicans in the state legislature responded by passing a law in 2019 requiring those felons to pay any outstanding fines and fees to consider their sentence complete. Voting rights groups sued over the law, comparing it to a poll tax, but an appeals court earlier this month ruled the law was constitutional.

“The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy and no American should be denied that right. Working together with the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, we are determined to end disenfranchisement and the discrimination that has always driven it,” Bloomberg said in a statement on Tuesday after the initiative was announced.

Bloomberg spokesman Jason Schechter responded to the pushback by saying, “This transparent political ploy is just the latest example of Republicans attempting to keep Floridians disenfranchised.”

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., first raised the possibility of an investigation into the effort in an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Tuesday night, saying he believed the attorney general may have been looking into it already.

“It is a felony [under Florida statute] for someone to either directly or indirectly offer something of value to impact whether or not someone votes,” Gaetz told Fox News. “You have the question of whether or not paying someone restitution and court costs constitutes something of value.”

“The next step is to determine whether or not this is intended whether or not someone votes,” Gaetz added.

The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

Participating donors for Bloomberg’s partnership with the coalition include artist John Legend, Twitter CEO John Dorsey and Susan Buffett. Legend reached out to his own network for donors, working closely with Bloomberg’s efforts. The former presidential candidate has not personally contributed to the coalition.

Bloomberg separately pledged $100 million in to help former Vice President Joe Biden in Florida, earlier this month.

Florida will be a closely watched battleground in the upcoming November election after President Donald Trump narrowly won the state by less than 113,000 votes in 2016. The latest statewide polls show Biden and Trump, who are both aggressively campaigning there, locked in a dead heat.

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