A Labor Day Look — At History, and Some Good News for Fall

And all too soon, summer comes to its unofficial close. The weather may still be hot, but if kids aren’t already back in school, they will be soon. And the last three-day weekend of the season is upon us.

According to the Auto Club, many more of us are taking advantage of the extra to travel, than in more recent years: “More people will get away this Labor Day weekend than have in the past six years, with 34.7 million Americans expected to take to the road and skies, according to a forecast released Thursday from auto club AAA,” as an article in USA Today states.

“’Consumer spending continues to outpace disposable income,” it continued, “‘indicating that Americans are comfortable using their credit cards to take one last summer vacation this year,’ Marshall Doney, AAA’s chief operating officer, said in a statement.”

This is also borne out in an NY TImes headline proclaiming “Demand Up, U.S. Economy Shows Gains.” The overview states that that “the American economy is gaining renewed momentum, with data… suggesting strong demand by businesses for airplanes, machinery and other manufactured items, as well as rising confidence among consumers, despite a cooling in the housing market.”

Orders for durable goods were up, though the article notes there was a particular spike largely due to an uptick in aircraft orders at Boeing.  Still, “a healthier job market and the recent surge in stocks, which has lifted the S.&P. 500 into record territory, has helped consumer confidence to rebound. On Tuesday, the Conference Board reported in its monthly survey that its main consumer confidence measure rose in August to its highest level since October 2007, before the start of the recession.”

All of this would indicate, perhaps, a less scary Halloween ahead of us, if these indicators continue to both hold, and get stronger.

And while we don’t officially start to give “thanks” until Thanksgiving, a month after that, writer Ron Ashkenas has a thoughtful piece about Labor Day, and its meaning, over at Forbes.

True, he says, don’t we take Labor Day’s arrival to mean that “it’s time to get back to work, stop going to the pool, and start planning winter vacation? Doesn’t it mean a last barbecue, a neighborhood softball game, and a final long weekend before autumn arrives?”

But what, one of his children asked, about the “Labor” part? As Ashkenas recounts, “Labor Day was originally proposed by the Central Labor Union of New York back in 1882, its real purpose was to serve as a tribute to the working class — the men and women whose physical, and largely manual, labor had built the country.The first Labor Day was marked by a demonstration

with speeches in support of workers’ contributions, followed by a picnic. Over the next several years, this practice — supported by the unions — was adopted by municipalities and states until the federal government in 1894 declared the first Monday of every September to be a legal holiday.”

Now, he posits, “just because a majority of workers are no longer unionized, blue-collar, manual laborers, doesn’t mean that they don’t work hard. In fact, these days many people work longer hours than ever to adapt to the global economy and ever-present communications technology. Knowledge workers perpetually tethered to their smartphones may not be physically working, but they’re virtually always at work. So perhaps Labor Day should recognize the productivity and contributions of office workers, knowledge workers, and those in service industries along with union workers, whether they are steelworkers, hospital workers, or government employees.

“In addition, at a time when too many people are unemployed, Labor Day also can remind us that having a job — whether white or blue-collar, managerial or administrative, bureaucratic or entrepreneurial — is a precious thing. We should not take it for granted, but celebrate that we have the opportunity to ‘labor’ (and to barbecue).”

So maybe it’s Thanksgiving after all!

Enjoy the holiday, and as the song says, we here at AVPS will “See You in September!”

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