This week, we celebrated Labor Day. The holiday was created to recognize the American labor force’s achievements that have brought prosperity to the United States. Officially, Labor Day was established by the U.S. Congress to be celebrated by each state beginning on June 28, 1884.
Labor Day takes on special meaning this year as Americans face record unemployment, most of which was caused by the global pandemic. As a nation, we’ve been lucky. Unemployment rates in the United States averaged 5.76% from 1948 until 2020. Rates reached an all-time high of 14.70% in April. The record low of 2.50% happened in May 1953.
There is somewhat good news for the labor force these days: First-time jobless claims for the final week of August came in at 881,000, marking the lowest weekly total since the pandemic began. Part of the reason for the dip, experts say, is that the government changed the way it accounts for seasonal fluctuation in the labor market. The adjustment is supposed to yield more accurate data in the long run, but it also diminishes the significance of the weekly drop in the numbers released by the Department of Labor.
Boasting that the economy is in recovery ignores the inescapable fact that the jobs front is still in trouble — and the mom-and-pop businesses that are America’s primary source of growth are losing ground.
The economy recovered 1.4 million jobs last month, a report released last week showed. That’s a slowdown from the previous month’s gain of a revised 1.7 million and from the 4.8 million recovered in June. After four straight months of growth, fewer than half of the more than 23 million jobs lost in March and April have been recovered, according to Politico. “Slowing job growth is a disaster when you are 11.8 million jobs in the hole," Heidi Shierholz, a former chief economist at the Labor Department, tweeted on Friday and was quoted in Politico. "This is not the V-shaped recovery that could get us out of this crisis in a reasonable timeframe."
As we work to defeat multiple enemies on many fronts — the pandemic, figuring out how to safely shop, relax and eat out again, and how to help small businesses recover— we can never forget that we are in this together.
The issues won’t magically go “poof!” in November, regardless of whether the Republicans or Democrats win. Who will be responsible for our recovery? Americans. Not Republicans. Not Democrats. Americans will win this war — the American labor force and the will to survive and thrive.
We celebrate workers. We celebrate America.
Happy Labor Day.