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Laboring Labor Day and the U-6

By Dian Vujovich

I’m old enough to remember when most stores and shops were closed on Labor Day. It was part of the deal. Then again, I’m also old enough to remember when stores were closed on Sunday, when regular gas cost 25 cents a gallon and when working a 40-hour week was considered a full-time job and provided a living wage that even allowed people earning it to be able to save money.

But that was literally decades ago and my how things have changed—-and not all for the better with respect to labor. More on that in a minute.

Today, most shops and stores are open on Labor Day. Sunday’s too. A gallon of regular gas, at the very least, now costs 10 times what did and for a vast number of full-time employees a 40-hour a week schedule would be considered light. Regarding income, well, we all know wages in many cases have been stagnant for years. Consequently, many are earning less today than they were decades ago when inflation is considered. We also know minimum wage levels in the $7 or $8 dollar an hour range don’t come anywhere close to providing a living wage. Nope. What they do is provide wages at a guaranteed poverty income level.

Back to labor.

The kinda sorta good news about labor is that Friday, 9/4/15, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that 173,000 jobs were added in August and that unemployment fell to 5.1 percent.

On another note, more and more states are raising the minimum wage as are a number of companies.That, said, for any increase to truly matter, however, it has to be in $15 an hour range.

All of that is kinda sorta good news because getting a piece of any of that positive action totally depends upon where you live and what your job is.

Now, that U-6 rate.

There’s another side to our employment and unemployment rate that the BLS also addresses. It’s the U-6 rate. According to an online CNBC piece on Friday: “ The BLS defines U-6 as “total unemployed, plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force,” plus all marginally attached workers.”

That figure, as you might guess, is a much higher one than the other two. In August, it was 10.3 percent.

If you’re a believer in government statistics, that’s good news because it’s down from a year ago and the lowest it has been since June 2008.

Hopefully, the future will bring an increase in the numbers of working American’s along with some serious jumps in annual and hourly wages.

Happy Labor Day to everyone working or not.


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