While many are using their Labor Day for one last summer hurrah, others are spending it looking for labor.
It's Michelle Allison, Merced County Workforce Investment's program manager, who's tasked with getting the latter folks ready to work.
"I like to encourage people," the 60-year-old Queens, N.Y., native said. "Even in the darkest days, there's something good and bright that's going to happen."
When someone walks into a Workforce Investment, or Worknet, office, Allison oversees the assessment of their skills and aptitudes. From there, she helps steer them into work they can do, or gets them the training they need.
Allison believes in the program, because she's seen it work. She watched her mother live through a "toxic" relationship.
"My mother was one of those women that had been abused, had no confidence, no self-esteem," she said. "It was this program, that I work with right now, that turned her life around."
Her mother, Shirley, used the San Antonio version of Worknet to find an administrative assistant job, and worked her way up to a civilian position at Lackland Air Force Base.
"Here she was, a manager of 250 people," Allison said, "when 12 years ago she was struggling and living in one room."
She hopes to repeat that story or similar stories in Merced County, which has a 14.6 percent unemployment rate.
Worknet's doors are open to people of all levels of employment, whether they want a better job, are under-employed or jobless.
"My biggest challenge is with our veterans coming back," Allison said, adding veterans often struggle to get a job.
"It's unfortunate. Too many veterans are coming back that are not readily picked up," she said.
Also high on the list of challenges for the unemployed, Allison said, are a lack of computer or critical thinking skills.
"Computer literacy is key," she said. "Folks that come in who've been in that one job for 20 or 30 years, and come out now, that's the one thing they struggle with."
The Worknet office has computers available for training to anyone with a photo ID.
Allison said some retail stores only take applications online. Those applications often include a questionnaire that tests critical thinking.
Robert Morris, director of Worknet, describes Allison as Worknet's quarterback, and that's why she's so vital.
He said she's "someone who really has that passion to help people, to help them succeed."
In the same vein, Morris said, she often has to use her skills to give people a pep talk.
"When folks come in there, they're pretty downtrodden," Morris. "They've been at their job for a long time and (are thinking), 'What am I going to do now?' "
Allison said she often encourages people to "keep hope alive, if you will."
Allison said she's hopeful for Merced County's unemployed, because changes in the city, such as the addition of UC Merced, seem to be bringing interest from companies looking to build.
"I think as people continue to take advantage of the services that we provide that's going to benefit them," she said, adding as people move up others can fill in below.
"If we can keep doing that, getting people in at the ground floor, that's going to benefit us in many, many ways."
Reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.