NEW YORK (AP) — To most Americans, July 4 is Independence Day. But on Marlo Anderson's calendar, it's also Caesar Salad Day and Barbecued Spareribs Day.Anderson is the mastermind of the National Day Calendar, an online compendium of pseudo-holidays that has become a resource for TV and radio stations looking to add a little levity to their broadcasts.The 52-year-old co-owner of a VHS digitizing company in North Dakota started the calendar in 2013 and soon realized the site could also be a way for people to declare their own special days. So last year, he started charging $1,500 to $4,000 for "national day" proclamations."People certainly don't need to use us. It's just we really give it a jumpstart," he said.Marketing experts give Anderson credit for seizing on the desire by companies and groups for another way to promote themselves, though they question the effectiveness some of the resulting campaigns. It's not the only reason for celebration, but food seems to be a common subject for special days.Already, the National Day Calendar has given its blessing to more than 30 made-up holidays. A crouton maker paid for National Crouton Day (May 13), a seafood restaurant submitted National Fried Clam Day (July 3) and a craft beer maker came up with National Refreshment Day (fourth Thursday in July).Anderson's venture, which he says brings in roughly $50,000 a year, underscores the free-for-all nature of such days.In 1870, Congress established the first four federal holidays with New Year's Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Since then, only six more annual federal holidays have been added, with the most recent being Martin Luther King Jr. day in 1983. But even the authority of those holidays is limited; although they're broadly observed, they're technically only legally applicable to federal employees.A few dozen other dates are also recognized in the U.S. code, including Mother's Day, National School Lunch Week and American Heart Month. Mayors, presidents and other lawmakers can declare days honoring individuals and causes too, although those usually aren't widely observed.Beyond that, there's no single authority for declaring the legitimacy of special days, which can become part of culture in myriad ways, including marketing campaigns, advocacy efforts and folklore.The often murky origins present an opportunity for the National Day Calendar, which has emerged to bestow an air of authority on special days. For a price, the site mails official-looking proclamations that Anderson prints out and frames at Zoovio, his VHS digitizing business.Boston Market's chief brand officer, Sara Bittorf, said the idea for National Rotisserie Chicken Day (June 2) came from the chain's ad agency, but noted the day was one of few approved by the National Day Calendar's selection committee.Since the National Day Calendar doesn't have its own staff, that selection committee is made up of four Zoovio employees.Amy LaVallie, a committee member, said the general rule is to pick days with broad appeal. It's why "National Sean Connery Day" was rejected, she said, but Boston Market's submission passed muster."National Rotisserie Chicken Day, okay? People like chicken. Simple as that," LaVallie said.Still, some question the validity of Anderson's calendar declarations."It seems like hokum to me, but more power to him," said Robert Passikoff, president of Key Brands, a consulting firm. "Ask him if they have a P.T. Barnum day, and see if they're celebrating a sucker born every minute."While special days give companies another way to promote a product, Passikoff said their effectiveness would depend largely on whether there's a natural interest in the category. He said National Donut Day (June 5) gets a lot of attention because the pastries are popular and the day has interesting origins; the Salvation Army says it began during World War I when its workers gave soldiers coffee and doughnuts in the trenches.As for a day celebrating rotisserie chicken, Passikoff questioned whether anyone would really care.While the National Day Calendar is a quick way for companies to get recognition for a special date, it isn't the only keeper of notable days.In 1957, brothers William and Harrison Chase started Chase's Calendar of Events as a reference for the media. The first edition was 32 pages, but the book has since mushroomed to 752 pages and includes federal holidays and events like musical festivals, as well as days celebrating things like squirrels, pooper scoopers and s'mores.It costs $80 and is used by places like libraries and media outlets.Holly McGuire, editor-in-chief of Chase's, said she and her team try to gauge whether people actually "observe" particular dates when deciding what should be included in the book."Really, in the last 10 or 20 years, people have just been throwing them out there. They may take or not. We try to bring a little order to the chaos," McGuire said.For instance, McGuire said Chase's doesn't list a day for chocolate since there are about three floating about and she can't figure out how they came to be. Yet the book lists a "Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor's Porch Night," which is intended to relieve people of squash from "overzealous planting."McGuire didn't provide details on Chase's methods for investigating the legitimacy of special days, but said a couple retweets on Twitter wouldn't qualify."We've got a team and we're constantly looking at things, kind of like dictionary editors do with new words," she said.People can submit special days for inclusion in Chase's, but acceptance doesn't hinge on payments.At the National Day Calendar, by contrast, one-time proclamations for birthdays, anniversaries and other occasions are on sale for $19.99 or $39.99. The price for ongoing inclusion in the calendar is higher.For $1,500, Anderson provides a framed proclamation. For $2,500, he helps arrange interviews with the media. And for $4,000 and travel expenses, he'll show up to present proclamations at events. So far, Anderson says three groups have taken him on that offer.This fall, he's traveling to New York for National Dumpling Day (Sept. 26); the day was submitted by TMI Corp., a distributor of Asian foods.
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. employers added a solid 223,000 jobs in June, and the unemployment rate fell to 5.3 percent, a seven-year low. But wages failed to budge, and other barometers of the job market paint a mixed picture.The unemployment rate fell from 5.5 percent in May, the Labor Department said Thursday. But the rate fell mostly because many people out of work gave up on their job searches and were no longer counted as unemployed.In addition, the percentage of Americans working or looking for work fell to a 38-year low, a possible sign of more discouraged job seekers. And employers added 60,000 fewer jobs in April and May combined than the government had previously estimated.The figures capture the persistently uneven nature of the job market's recovery from the Great Recession. More people had begun looking for work in May, yet all those gains were reversed in June. And wages, which had shown signs of finally rising earlier this year, have now stalled.Construction companies failed to add any jobs in June after hiring 15,000 in May and 30,000 in April. Manufacturing gained just 4,000 jobs in June. But health care added 53,000 positions and retailers 33,000.Still, over the past three months, hiring has averaged 221,000, a step up from 195,000 in the first three months of the year. That suggests that many employers are confident that consumer demand for their goods and services will remain strong enough in coming months to justify more staffers.Thursday's report may heighten expectations that the Fed will boost the key short-term rate it controls in September or, if not, in December. The Fed has kept that rate at a record low near zero for 6½ years to support the economy. A Fed rate hike would lead to higher rates for mortgages, auto loans and other borrowing."The mixed signals make the Fed's data-driven interest rate hike difficult to predict, though certainly the lower unemployment figures would indicate they hike sooner rather than later," said Tara Sinclair, a professor at George Washington University and chief economist at the jobs site Indeed.Strong hiring has endured this year despite a miserable winter, which helped cause the economy to contract 0.2 percent at an annual rate in the January-March quarter.The job gains show that employers are increasingly confident that their customer demand will keep growing. Their willingness to hire in anticipation of greater demand marks a shift from earlier in the economic recovery, when many businesses tended to hire only when essential.A survey of purchasing executives at manufacturing firms released this week found that factories reported a scant rise in orders in June but ramped up hiring anyway.Americans are finally spending more after boosting their savings earlier this year, in part because they're growing more confident about the economy. The Conference Board said Tuesday that its consumer confidence index reached 101.4, matching March's figure for the second-highest level since the recession.That's good news for auto dealers and real estate agents. Auto sales jumped to nearly a 10-year high in May. The National Automobile Dealers Association forecasts that sales will top 17 million this year for the first time since 2001.And home sales are running at an eight-year high and boosting construction. Permits to build homes jumped 11.8 percent in May to the highest level since 2007.Most economists now expect economic growth to reach an annual rate of 2.5 percent in the April-June quarter and 3 percent in the second half of the year.