Ode to Labor Day from the 26.3 million Americans without jobs

Before you head out to a picnic or your backyard hammock on Labor Day, consider the 26.3 million people in the country without jobs and what today might mean to them.

The American worker should be celebrated today, and so should the American worker who wants a job but can't find one. Along with relaxing and enjoying a day off, workers should try to do something to help their out-of-work brethen.

And there are plenty of us out there. I'm one of the 9.1 million "underemployed" workers who the Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies as "persons working part time for economic reasons." We're working part time because that's all we can get. Either our hours have been cut back or we can't find a full-time job.

That's on top of the 14.9 million people listed as unemployed, a 9.7% national unemployment rate that is at a 26-year high.

There are also 2.3 million people "marginally attached to the labor force," as the BLS puts it, an increase of 630,000 from a year earlier. These are people who have basically given up. They're not looking for a job, but want one and had looked for work sometime in the past year, but haven't looked for a job in the past four weeks.

Among those "marginally attached" are 758,000 discouraged people who aren't looking for work because they don't think there are any jobs out there for them. That number has doubled over the past year. The remaining 1.5 million marginally attached have school or family responsibilities keeping them from job hunting.

Add up the 14.9 million unemployed, 9.1 million underemployed and 2.3 million who have given up or have other priorities, and it's 26.3 million people in America without jobs.

The effects are staggering and keep the recession going. Consider the hardships of the unemployed:
  • Applying for job after job and finally getting an interview, which goes well, only to not hear back from the employer for weeks and see the job opening posted again.
  • Having to mail your house keys to the bank and move because you can't find a job to pay the mortgage.
  • Constantly networking, searching for and applying for jobs in a crowded job market, for 12 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • Without a job, no paid sick days, vacation days or holidays to take off and enjoy.
If there's one thing that the working men and women of America can do today, after having their barbecue, it's to reach out to a jobless person they know and offer help. Everyone knows someone out of a job.

There are many ways to help. It can be as simple as calling the friend or co-worker you know who lost their job and asking how they're doing and if there's anything you can do for them.

Or it can be an introduction to your networking team or people you know who are hiring in their area. Or offer to take care of their kids for a few hours so they can job hunt. Or give them a Starbucks card so they can go get some free Wi-Fi time away from home and search for jobs. Read their resume and offer help.

Anything. Do whatever you can to help people get back in the workforce full time. On a day without labor, it's a good time to help get someone back to work.

Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Reach him at www.AaronCrowe.net
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