Nate Jackson / September 7, 2020

Labor Day 2020

What a different holiday this is on the upswing from a devastating pandemic.

Today is Labor Day, and that means the unofficial end of summer on a day of celebration of the American worker. The holiday originated in the late 19th century and was borne of the labor movement, though many Americans, led by President Grover Cleveland, pushed for and secured a September date to distinguish it from the socialist/communist “International Workers Day,” or “May Day,” on May 1. Labor Day was made an official federal holiday in 1894.

As we mark the day, let’s take a look at employment in the wake of the disastrous coronavirus shutdown.

Far surpassing expectations, the August jobs report showed an economy that is recovering strongly. Employers added 1.4 million jobs last month, bringing the headline unemployment rate down to 8.4% from 10.2% in July and well below April’s high of 14.7%. And that decline came even as more people entered the workforce.

Unfortunately, we still have a long way to go to return to the pre-COVID 3.5% rate. “We have had three huge months of job gains, but so far have regained less than half of the losses in March and April,” said Dan North, senior economist at Euler Hermes North America. “Job gains so far have probably been the easy ones to get, where a business opened back up and brought back in its employees.”

And, according to The Daily Signal, “The number of permanent job losses increased by 534,000 to 3.4 million.”

It’s noteworthy that the additional $600 weekly unemployment benefit added by the CARES Act earlier this year expired at the end of July. President Donald Trump signed an executive order in August extending $300 per week in federal benefits and another $100 from participating states.

That benefit was generous, but it provided an incentive for some to remain unemployed. Noting that the pandemic has been “devastating for many Americans” but “a boon for others,” The Wall Street Journal reports on the latter group: “A majority of workers who lost their jobs but got the extra $600 a week earned more in unemployment for several months than they did at their jobs.”

It will be some time before we “return to normal” economically, and it’s likely that some things will be permanently altered. Nevertheless, things are looking up, and with that, a happy Labor Day to those Americans taking a one-day break from laboring today. And to those on an extended break not of their choosing, we say: Hang in there. Better days are ahead.

Update: Joe Biden blasted President Trump, saying, “Donald Trump may be the only president in modern history to leave office with fewer jobs than when he took office.” There is the small matter of pandemic, of course, and the shutdown prolonged by Democrat governors…

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