Empire editorial: Labor Day celebrates well-being of country

Posted: Monday, September 06, 2010

Labor Day is a "yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country," according to the U.S. Department of Labor's website.

The message the day is supposed to enforce can be quickly lost in the shuffle of final summer getaways and the start of school piled onto the usual hustle and bustle of life. It is also easy to forget the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country when worrisome economic news comes out of Washington, D.C.

However, in Juneau, and much of the rest of Southeast Alaska for that matter, our labor force has helped build a robust economy that has proven, for the most part, resistant to the bad financial numbers and the realities they create in much of the country.

The unemployment rate here dipped to 5.2 percent in July, 0.3 percent lower than the June number and well below the statewide (6.9 percent) and national (9.5 percent) averages for that month.

And the healthy economy is being spread throughout Juneau's labor force, not simply loading up the wallets of a few to create the impression of prosperity. According to numbers recently released by the Juneau Economic Development Council, Juneau's income equality is better than the distribution of wealth in both the rest of Alaska and the nation. This means more people can take greater advantage of the things that make Juneau a great place to live, creating a self-perpetuating fuel for our fiscal engine.

Of course, there are several things that must work in sync to ensure a flourishing financial environment, especially in the face of dismal numbers elsewhere. There must be investors willing to provide capital, competent management of that seed money and judicious use of our resources.

One element, though, is absolutely indispensable in the equation that equals a good economy: a powerful and talented labor force. The work done by Juneauites is both the brains and the muscle that puts everything else in motion. Economic success is the product of the people who labor, and it is fitting we take today to honor them.

Labor Day receives neither the solemnity of Memorial Day nor the pomp and pageantry of the Fourth of July, but it is a day we rightfully celebrate the efforts of laborers past that allow workers present to enjoy the fruits of prosperity. Let's be sure the lessons learned building today's workforce - and its relationship with the other elements of successful capitalism - are not recalled by rote only on the first Monday of September, but every time we see a net cast, a customer served or a patch of Earth turned.

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