Smith: LABOR DAY? How about: Part-Time Labor Day

Smith: LABOR DAY? How about: Part-Time Labor Day

September 2nd, 2013 By Robin Smith in Opinion Columns

Robin Smith

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

The first day of September has celebrated the American worker since 1894. The Department of Labor notes the federal holiday was established to honor the "social and economic achievements of American workers" and recognize the "contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country."

Near the end of the 19th century, the "Second Industrial Revolution" was defined by territorial expansion, production lines, and mass production. The Department of Labor describes the era as possessing "the vital force of labor" that "added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known."

Without question, the turn of the 20th century ushered in great economic gains - accomplished with many working 12-hour days, seven-day work weeks in unsafe working conditions. Despite the 8-hour work day being supported by President Abraham Lincoln decades earlier when the average work week measured 60 hours, it wasn't until the early 1900s through workforce activism that oppressive workplaces and the burden of the over-long work week was addressed.

As we plan for holiday barbecues and fun with family and friends, exactly what do we celebrate on this Labor Day? Well, it's not full-time employment!

As of Aug. 5, the Department of Labor recorded the average work week of 2013 as 34 hours per week, down from an average of 38 hours logged by workers in 1964.

Is this Labor Day marking the end of full-time employment in America?

The McClatchy-Tribune Washington Bureau quotes Keith Hall, who ran the Bureau of Labor Statistics from 2008 to 2012 and is currently a George Mason University senior researcher, as saying that "over the last six months of the net job creation, 97% of that is part-time work."

Again, of the 963,000 jobs created during the last six months of this current year, most are part-time.

Out of all the American able-bodied adults of all races, ages and gender, the percentage of individuals working measured 63.4% in July 2013. This figure matches the size of our work force during the days of President Jimmy Carter in 1979 that introduced the economic indicator, the "Misery Index."

Did you know that there are more Americans receiving food stamps as of Aug. 9, 2013 than the entire population of Canada?

The expansion of welfare use in the food stamp program has grown to 47.6 million citizens. The number of food stamp recipients in 2000 was 17.1 million.

The number of Americans receiving disability pay stands at 11 million.

So, what does all of this mean? What's the big deal if people stop looking for work or only work part-time?

As the average household income has dropped from $55,438 in 2007 to $51,404 in February 2013, and the personal savings rate has responded in kind over the last three years. In 2011, Americans were saving at a rate of 5.5% of earnings, sliding to 4.2% in 2012 and bottoming at 2.6% in the first quarter of 2013.

Let's take all of these data points and assemble our new reality: High unemployment, high underemployment, reduction in hours worked weekly for those employed, high participation in welfare programs, and low personal savings rate explain the broken economy causing the decline of individual opportunity and prosperity.

The pixie dust sprinkled by clueless politicians on the left is actually poisoning our business climate, penalizing the average worker and only growing government and its dependents.

A nation works best when its citizens are working ... full-time.

Robin Smith served as chairwoman of the Tennessee Republican Party from 2007 to 2009. She is a partner at the SmithWaterhouse Strategies business development and strategic planning firm.