$15 Wage is Norm? Employers Struggle to Fill Jobs

Businesses, particularly in the restaurant, retail and travel industries, have been offering a $15 wage to try to fill enough jobs to meet surging demand from consumers, millions of whom are now spending freely after a year in lockdown. And many of the unemployed, buoyed by stimulus checks and expanded jobless aid, feel able to hold out for higher pay.

Who Knew Gaming Could Be So Profitable?

Forget forex, deep-six stocks, find me a sealed copy of Super Mario 64! A sealed copy of the Nintendo 64 classic recently sold at auction for a whopping 1.56 million dollars. The distinguishing mark for this sale? Wata Games, a games grading firm, graded this particular copy of Super Mario 64 a rare 9.8, making it the highest-graded copy on record. Not bad for a 25-year-old game.

Tokyo Olympics Open With Controversy

Tokyo’s 2020 Olympics opened this week; yes that’s right 2020, because COVID. And man, has it been rocky for Japan during this time. Not only is Tokyo facing a six-month high in COVID-19 cases, but their Olympic Committee has seen a ton of controversy.

We Didn't Start the Fire (but the ATF blamed us anyway)

It comes as no surprise that every year on the 4th of July that fireworks are bought and set off in colorful displays in celebration. You may be more surprised to know that fireworks are legal in 46 states with varying restrictions depending on the state. By fireworks, we mean things that don’t require a permit, like bottle rockets, sparklers, and roman candles. In most states the larger explosives used for professional displays require a permit- which should be no surprise as starting an unintentional fire would be relatively easy, especially displays near large urban settings or dry rural settings. The states with the most strict fireworks laws are Massachusetts, Ohio, Illinois, and Maine.

July 2021

Of course, when you think of July you think of the 4th of July (which is a bank holiday that will be observed on the 5th). The birthday of America aka party in the USA. But what else happens in July? Nathan Bedford Forrest Day (July 13th, observed in Tennessee), Bastille Day (July 14th), Rural Transit Day (July 16th), Pioneer Day (July 25th, observed in Utah), Parents’ Day (July 25th), National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day (July 27th).

Lights! Camera! Matter?

Lights! Camera! Matter? Wait, what? Yes, that’s right- we can now get matter from light.The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has the ability to transform matter into energy and then back into different forms of matter. Even cooler, on rare occasions, the Large Hadron Collider can skip the first step and collide pure energy. In 2019, the “A Toroidal LHC Apparatus” (ATLAS) experiment at the LHC observed two photons (aka particles of light) hitting each other and producing two new photons. Last year this was taken a step further and researchers discovered photons merging and transforming into something even more interesting: W bosons (particles that carry the weak force which governs nuclear decay). Yeah, we know that was a lot of jargon, so in short: light particles banged against each other until researchers got something a bit more solid. In other words, this research confirms the central concept governing processes inside the LHC: that energy and matter are two sides of the same coin.

June 2021

We are sure you’ve noticed all of the rainbow colored items show up in stores around June 1st. No, it is not rainbow unicorn appreciation month- June is Pride Month. As the COVID rules start to relax, the likelihood of festivities increase so, we wouldn’t be surprised to see pride parades this year. June isn’t just pride month and there are some other important dates within the month of June. For example, World Environment Day (June 5th), World Oceans Day (June 8th), World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (June 15th), Juneteenth (June 19th), Father’s Day (June 20th which is immediately followed by the first day of summer), and National Insurance Awareness Day (June 28th).

Leave Me A-Loan

If you are a student, then you know that time after time you’ve given your money to pay back student loans. There aren’t really many excuses you can make to not do that, unless you are a public servant in which case after a certain amount of time the loan will be forgiven (time in position ranges depending on what the position is). Unfortunately, if you still owe on your student loans, the plan to forgive $10K of what you owe has been cut from the U.S. budget, at least for now. It would have been interesting to see how canceling the debt would impact the credit score of students, especially since the average student debt has risen from about $36K to $39K per student from 2019 to 2020. Speaking of credit scores, did you know that that is a more recent phenomenon?

Where the Wood At?

We have talked about increases before, for example bitcoin, the cost of gasoline and even the cost of houses in previous issues of State of the Bands, but we felt it was time to revisit this topic now since the prices have jumped yet again. We previously covered that the global demand for lumber has actually increased since the world went into lock down. We also previously reported that lumber prices have risen by more 130% since before the COVID-19 pandemic, which makes for an estimated $24K in the cost of a newly constructed single-family home and almost $13k for a multifamily home. In fact, when looking over the course of a year, lumber has increased by 375% between April 2020 and April 2021 according to Forbes. That means investors have sunk almost four times as much money into the same exact amount of wood compared to a year ago, and the bad news is that the spike shows no signs of stopping. Although the housing sector continues to be a leader in the nation’s economic recovery, these sharp price increases threaten housing affordability for all Americans.

Public Does Not Mean Free

Public court records aren’t quite public. By that, we don’t quite mean that if you are called to court for something that a basic background check won’t pull it, but we are referring to the actual court record. In case you were wondering, if you wanted to pull back a public case record, it costs around 10 cents per page. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but it adds up pretty quickly especially if you are pulling multiple cases. The U.S. federal court system has a document database called PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records). If you are interested in looking at a court transcript, you have to first make an account and then order the specific document you are looking for. Once you register, you can search for a case in the federal court where the case was filed, or search the nationwide index of federal court cases. If you want a free option, court proceedings are open to the public, and case records can be reviewed free of charge in courthouse clerks’ offices during business hours.