Thinking About Labor

by Fred Cederholm
In 2010, Labor Day takes on a special significance: We are in the midst of a major economic downturn. Whether we are in recovery, or not is open to debate. But history shows there is really no such thing as a jobless recovery, and for anyone to claim such is blasphemy.

I’ve been thinking about labor. Actually I’ve been thinking about this past holiday, American workers, changes, the summer statistics, the November election, and Jesse Jackson. Labour Day or Labor Day is an annual holiday to celebrate the economic and social achievements of workers. Labor Day has its origins in the labor union movement, specifically the eight-hour day movement, which advocated eight hours for work, eight hours for recreation, and eight hours for rest. In the biblical sense, man was expected to work for six days and rest on the seventh.

You see the first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City. The Central Labor Union held its second Labor Day holiday just a year later, on September 5, 1883. In 1884 the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday and the Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and celebrate a "workingmen's holiday" on that date. The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country. By 1894, 24 other states had adopted the holiday in honor of workers, and on June 28 of that year, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.

In 2010, Labor Day takes on a special significance for all of us in the US. We are in the midst of a major economic downturn. Whether we are in recovery, or not is open to debate. So too, are the debates over whether the second leg of a double dip is on the way. Any study about economic cycles in American history shows there is really no such thing as a jobless recovery, and for anyone to claim such is blasphemy. This Labor Day weekend we are seeing the pundits picking apart the employment data released by Uncle $ugar and his “counters.”

Just last week the unemployment rate was officially raised to 9.6% from 9.5% -- not much of a revision. Uncle was still not including those underemployed --- over educated/ over trained, those who had replaced a full time job (with benefits) with a part time position, and those who have given up even working to find a job. These components push “the rate” to well over 20% maybe higher. Uncle was not getting honesty pangs because of the election on November 2 though the coming election is a primary concern for every candidate. This was supposed to be a summer of jobs. They didn’t materialize despite what you might TH*NK.

Uncle has played fast and loose with the numbers. He hasn’t really “lied” even though the ranks of the unemployed have continued to rise every month. Yet, he once again “modified” what is fed to the general public. When we recently have heard how a given month’s number of workers has increased over the prior month that may be a true statement and appear to be good NEWs, but it is a GROSS number not a NET one. This means that while jobs created have risen, so too have the ranks of those who got terminated, downsized, fired, canned, or let go. Unfortunately the jobs lost would wipe out the progress made in jobs created. May had a big spike of 431,000 jobs created, the problem was that of those, 411,000 (or 95%) were for temporary census workers whose jobs would be gone eight weeks later. These hiring’s made front page news when they appeared, but got no mention even on page 37 when they went away. We heard about the 67,000 jobs created in August, but we did not hear how August had a NET loss of 54,000. Summer is a traditional time of job creation. In 2010, we saw total employment go down, down, and down.

The politicians and celebrities are now hawking the employment cause big time. This will only escalate the closer we get the election in November. The Public figures are out under the limelight. Many are saying the individuals should start their own business and make their own employment. This is an American tradition. Last week in Detroit, the REVEREND Jesse Jackson was out promoting green jobs, green products, and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. It apparently was quite a speech. When he attempted to leave he learned that his fully equipped Cadillac Escalade (a nice “green” vehicle) had been stolen by some enterprising vehicle heisters and later found stripped. The Rev. JJ should not feel too bad, as the Mayor of Detroit also had his own SUV ripped off and stripped last week as well. Maybe not all self-created “jobs” are a good thing. Hummm?

I hope you all had a great Labor Day. I’m Fred Cederholm and I’ve been thinking. You should be thinking, too.

Copyright 2010 Questions, Inc. All rights reserved. Fred Cederholm is a CPA/CFE, a forensic accountant, and writer. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois (B.A., M.A. and M.A.S.). He can be reached at

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This story was published on September 6, 2010.