Labor Day is still about the American character!
  • Jayne McQuillan

Labor Day is still about the American character!

Updated: Jan 9, 2019



Where has the summer gone! Labor Day weekend is just behind us, the kids are back at school, and the lack of schedule has become a structured schedule of work, school, and kids activities. However, most of our definitions of work are much different than they were even 20 years ago. 


How ironic that Labor Day weekend was established and recognized for the following reason:


Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.


In 1884 the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday, as originally proposed, and the Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and celebrate a "workingmen's holiday" on that date. The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in 1885, Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country. (https://www.dol.gov/general/laborday/history)


According to the International Trade Administration, in 2013, the services sector of the U.S. economy made up almost 79.6% of total private sector jobs, and manufacturing jobs were just 8.8%. This is a drop in manufacturing jobs from almost 25% in the late 1960’s. We have been steadily shifting to a service economy ever since. Now I am not an economist, but there are several hypothesis around why this is:

  1. We are a high-income economy and as high income opportunities present themselves, the workforce will shift towards those opportunities. These have been in the service industries, such as doctors, lawyers, etc.

  2. Computers have revolutionized the manufacturing process. What used to take 8-10 workers can now be done with one or none due to robotics.

  3. Globalization has contributed to manufacturing jobs going overseas, to take advantage of the lower labor costs. 

The push for four-year degrees and higher-level income jobs has definitely contributed to the shift; however, the growth in manufacturing jobs requires competitiveness in the global marketplace. Our ability to innovate and create has come from our ability to manufacture. With new technology advancements, the jobs that we used to do no longer exist. The manufacturing jobs now require more advanced training and skills. We now have greater flexibility and rapid response; we have new and better materials, all of which have affected the jobs that are in the marketplace.   

So when you are sending your kids back to school, what jobs are they looking to pursue in the future? What type of education will be most marketable as our economy continues to grow and shift? The jobs in the past, are not the current jobs, and will not be the jobs of the future. Now more than ever, a mindset of continuous learning is a must. The rate of change, the competitive global marketplace, and the need to have focus, drive, and flexibility, are all characteristics of what the future economy holds. 

We are still an economy that does and should celebrate “ the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”  Although what that looks like today may be changing, we are still resourceful, adaptable, and persevere. Nothing says that more than the tragedies we have overcome as a country, including the most recent devastation of Houston by hurricane Harvey and Florida with the impacts of Irma. We are thankful for our family members that made it through both hurricanes with little to no damage, and send prayers to those that have been devastated by the destruction. 

Labor Day is as much about the strength of the American being as it is about work. Happy Labor Day!


Jayne McQuillan, CPA, MBA, CEPA is a strategic management consultant, and the owner of Journey Consulting, LLC, in Green Bay



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