Bob Bozzuto: A Labor Day to celebrate
During our busy lives, there are few chances to step back and take in the big picture of the momentum built by America’s workforce. On this 125th Labor Day, we can point out historic achievements and positive impacts that continue across the labor market.
The Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistic has reported positive job growth, totaling 5.7 million jobs created since January 2017. The unemployment rate is at 3.7%, near a 50-year low, and has been at or below 4% for 17 months in a row. This is the lowest unemployment rate going into a Labor Day since 1969. Pennsylvania has reached a new record low unemployment rate of 3.8%.
These are the facts that are widely publicized each “Jobs Day” — the first Friday of each month. Yet, the full story of the dignity of work is best described in the context of the complete breadth and depth of lesser-known, encouraging news.
Every month since tracking began in the year 2000, the number of open jobs trailed behind the number of unemployed individuals. That was the case until March 2018. The following 16 months of data shows that job creators have been creating so many opportunities that open jobs have outnumbered job seekers.
Americans’ wages are rising. Every month for a year, wages increased at or above 3%. That is great news as wage increases show a dynamic labor market where skilled American workers are in demand and able to choose the best employment options for their families. Wages are growing faster for the lowest wages earners.
As more jobs are filled, unemployment drops, and wages rise, we also see important reports on safety in the workplace. Every life lost or injury sustained is heartbreaking. In 2017, the last year reported, the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries showed 43 fewer workplace fatalities and 45,800 fewer injuries. The Mine Safety and Health Administration had the second lowest number of fatalities in their history in 2018. The Wage and Hour Division set new records in recovering back wages with more than $304 million in 2018, and at the same time held a record number of outreach events to help employers curb violations before they happen.
Moving toward the fall, the Administration will push for the adoption of the United States-Mexico- Canada Agreement. The president continues to fight for America’s workers in trade policy and taking the unprecedented step of including labor provisions in the USMCA. It has been cited by the leadership of the U.N. International Labour Organization as the most comprehensive labor section in a trade agreement. Simply, it puts American workers first. When adopted, companies in Monongahela and Monroeville will compete on a level playing field with companies from Mexico City and Manitoba.
Even if you do not read these statistics in alerts and headlines, it would be wrong to take these outcomes for granted because they do not just happen. They are significant because they are built on the successful careers of our family, friends, and neighbors. Labor Day is the right time to appreciate the products of policy choices that result in more opportunities, safer workplaces, and the overall success of the greatest workforce in the world — the American workforce. Happy #Labor Day125!