This weekend, we are celebrating the American worker.
The holiday is not just about holding barbecues, attending parades and getting in a last hurrah before the kids head off to class and summer fun wraps up.
One way we can acknowledge the contributions of employed people is to think, for a bit, about those who aren’t working. Although the economy seems to be moving toward a sustained recovery, jobs have not been available at the rate anyone would like. Many of the positions cut during the recession will not be reinstated.
If you know any recent college graduates, you are probably aware of the struggles many of them face in finding good-paying jobs in their fields. Making a sustainable living these days often requires holding several jobs, not one, as employers have cut back on pay and benefits. Some businesses have found savings in offering part-time positions instead of full time.
The U.S. unemployment rate, which measures the number of people actively looking for a job, decreased to 7.4 percent in July from 7.6 percent in June.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national unemployment rate averaged 5.82 percent from 1948 until 2013, reaching an all-time high of 10.80 percent in December 1982 and a record low of 2.50 percent in May 1953.
In New York state, the jobless rate for July was at 7.5 percent. In our area, the rate for last month was 8.4 in Clinton County, 7.2 in Essex County and 8.3 in Franklin County.
Remember, those are the percentages of the workforce who were looking for, but unsuccessful in finding, jobs. People who are employed — especially those in rewarding jobs with decent pay at companies who care about their welfare — have reason to feel fortunate.
That is what people should reflect on as they enjoy an extra day off.
The holiday we mark on Monday was born of the labor movement. Unions sought recognition for the hard work being done by employees and pushed states to enact legislation.
The first state bill to celebrate Labor Day was introduced into the New York Legislature, but Oregon became the first state to make it law, on Feb. 21, 1887, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. That year, four more states — New York, Colorado, Massachusetts and New Jersey — created a Labor Day holiday.
On June 28, 1894, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September a legal holiday throughout the nation.
So as North Country residents enjoy the traditional last weekend of summer vacation, we salute the important workforce changes accomplished by unions through the years, the companies who make employee satisfaction a priority and the businesses that deal fairly with workers.
But, mostly, we acknowledge the men and women who get out and earn a living, who put their hearts into their work and who contribute to the system that powers American growth and ingenuity.