This Labor Day, workers actually have something to celebrate, though you’ll detect precious little of it in the mainstream media coverage today:
— 1.7 million new jobs have been created over the past year;
— Employment has increased in 48 of the 50 states;
— Manufacturing output is at an all-time high and production employment in manufacturing has increased by 117,000 over the past year — the largest annual increase in over 8 years;
— The economy has grown at 3.5% over the past year, while productivity has grown at 2.4%;
— Real per capita disposable income has risen 9.2% since 2001;
— Real compensation has risen 1.7%.
Labor for its part laments the state of the US economy — again — and points in its new study to how great things are in Europe. This is almost comical, considering the per capita US Gross Domestic Product (also known as the standard of living) is almost 50% higher than Europe’s. The 3.5% GDP growth noted above is 35% faster than the EU’s. The current 4.6% unemployment rate is half Europe’s rate. US workers unemployed for over a year account for just 12% of the total, while in Europe, some 43% of all unemployed have been so for over a year. Finally, the percent of people starting new businesses is five times higher in the US than in France. Ask yourself this question: If you open the borders, which way will people flow — toward Europe or toward the good ol’ US of A? We think we know the answer.
So today, as you read all the wistful comparisons with Europe and read all the grim news about the US economy, just remember that this economy has come up off the economic mat from September 11 with a vengeance. We remain the largest economy in the world and the economic envy of the world.
And that gives us all something to celebrate this Labor Day.
Unless you’re The New York Times of course–though even there, the gray mood isn’t entirely universal.
Update: One more stat: Betsy Newmark writes that “A new poll shows that labor unions are at their lowest approval rating since 1981”, adding:
Perhaps if unions addressed some of this negative image rather than spending their members’ high-priced dues in partisan activities, they’d recover some some respect.
Actually, it’s a great success for labor that unions are regarded so negatively. It’s an indication that the major battles that led to the formation of unions in the 19th century have been won. For example, they have safety standards, a living wage with benefits, and the ability to complain without losing their jobs. If workers were still feeling the same tyranny that they used to feel, workers would still be looking to unions for support. But those battles have largely been won and unions now are perceived as selfishly doing everything they can for workers without concern of the effect they have on businesses. Teacher unions and their stranglehold on public schools are not helping that public image.