By Michael Thurmond
Georgia Department of Labor
Labor Day 2009 arrives at a critical juncture in the economic history of the United States of America. The Great Recession has already claimed the jobs of more than 6.5 million American workers. Seismic economic forces are restructuring America's workforce and the long-term effects will be pervasive and permanent.
The reality of the current economic crisis is sobering. Tens of thousands of manufacturing and construction jobs that were the mainstay of America's middle class have been lost. Although the recessionary tides are receding, economists predict that unemployment will continue to rise throughout 2010.
Despite the dire economic circumstances, I believe that there is much to be celebrated. On this Labor Day, we should pause to reflect upon the full value of our labors. In order to honor all laborers, we must embrace a more holistic appreciation of our compensated and uncompensated labors.
Half-a-million Georgians are out of work; however, many are focusing their efforts toward helping family members, friends and neighbors. More importantly, these jobless Georgians are laboring in pursuit of new skills and education or searching for much-needed employment.
Labor Day 2009 provides a unique opportunity for us to honor and celebrate the men and women who are employed, as well as those who are jobless but not "laborless."
Today, we celebrate all workers who rise early and work late. We honor production workers and supervisors in Dalton whose work ethic and productivity are unsurpassed. We honor the janitor in Macon who takes pride in keeping the public restrooms clean. And we honor the small business owner in Valdosta who is striving to turn innovative ideas into profit.
We honor parents throughout the state who are struggling to support and provide for their families. We salute and pray for our brave young men and women in uniform, on duty around the globe, working to keep America safe.
Let us also honor laid-off workers who are laboring to earn certificates and degrees. Let us recognize job-seekers spending hours upon hours each day searching for a new job. They will attest to the fact that looking for a new job is a job.
We encourage unemployed fathers who assume additional household responsibilities now that their spouses have become the principal breadwinners. We honor and celebrate the jobless volunteers who donate their labor to food banks and other charities to help those less fortunate than themselves.
On the 127th anniversary of Labor Day, we honor all honest laborers and celebrate their contributions to our society. The labors of the employed and the unemployed are laying the foundation for a more prosperous future.