San Bernardino County Sun: Too few bright spots on today's Labor Day

September 3, 2012 

San Bernardino County Sun

Labor Day, as a celebration of America's working men and women, has lost some of its luster.

Times are tough for labor, in a great many ways.

First and foremost, not enough of us are able to exchange our labor for a decent livelihood, with national unemployment above 8 percent for the fourth Labor Day in a row. At least the rate is nearly a point lower than it was a year ago.

In California the rate is 10.7 percent, in Los Angeles County it's

11.2 percent The Labor Department reported several days ago that only 56 percent of Americans laid off from January 2009 through December 2011 had found jobs by the start of this year, and more than half of them took pay cuts.

Secondly, the labor union movement, whose contributions to American society engendered the celebration of Labor Day, feels that it's under siege. Specifically, public employee unions are battling rollbacks in pension and other benefits as those benefits threaten governments' fiscal solvency.

The average worker in the private sector has nothing close to the kind of benefits that public employees enjoy. That raises tensions between public and private sector workers, because the privates pay taxes to support public benefits that they have no hope of enjoying.

As the middle class gets squeezed, so does the consumer spending that makes up two-thirds of the United States' gross national product.

Still, there are a few bright spots showing in our economy, which may presage a turnaround.

Significantly, California added 25,200 jobs in July, an impressive figure. And house prices finally are starting to inch up nationally, a phenomenon which we hope will spread soon to our own housing-dependent economy.

The recovery from the Great Recession has been excruciatingly slow, so we look with anxious anticipation to any good signs we see. We know a recovery, once it gets going, feeds on itself in much the same way this long downturn has.

So we cling to cautious optimism for the year ahead.

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