Labor Day 2012's Focus: Jobs

Labor Day messages from California and New York state agencies indicate job gains are increasing at a good rate.

Labor Day means cookouts, parades, back-to-school sales, and the last holiday of the summer at seaside resorts, to many Americans. It's also the day when organized labor celebrates achievements such as the eight-hour workday and any number of workplace safety and health regulations.

Labor Day 2012 also has a major focus on jobs and unemployment, with the two major-party November presidential election candidates sparring on which of them has a better plan to strengthen the economy and reduce joblessness.

U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis' message for the holiday is featured on the Labor Department's website, along with links to a history of Labor Day, photos from DOL activities in the past year, and more. To find these, visit http://www.dol.gov/laborday/index.htm.

Two days ago, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the "Jobs Express" website had helped more than 44,000 state residents find work during the 10 months it has been operating. The http://www.labor.ny.gov/jobs/regional.shtm site, created to help New Yorkers who are seeking employment, was receiving an average of 106,000 visits monthly and had 71,000 jobs openings listed as of Aug. 31 -- more than 10,000 more than it had when Cuomo announced its launch in October 2011. The New York State Department of Labor updates the listings daily.

"With our state recovering from the national economic recession, the Jobs Express website has been a major success, helping more than 44,000 New Yorkers connect with employment opportunities," Cuomo said. "From day one, my administration has been focused on jobs, jobs, jobs, and with initiatives ranging from the NY Works program, the Regional Economic Development Councils, to Jobs Express, we have moved New York State into the forefront of finding innovative ways to grow the economy and get people back to work."

Across the country, the annual Labor Day Briefing from California's Economic Development Department touted job growth there, saying the state added jobs at the fastest year-over-year pace in 11 years and "is outperforming the nation and all but a handful of small states in job creation, and the upward trend seems likely to continue."

"California's economy was hurt by the reckless acts of Wall Street financiers, but the Golden State remains a center of robust innovation and is leading the nation in job growth,” said Gov. Jerry Brown. "Small businesses and major companies like Samsung, Sun Edison, Dell, Bayer Healthcare, and Zollner Electronics have expanded their operations, bringing thousands of new jobs to California." EDD Diretor Pam Harris added, "This Labor Day, workers can celebrate the fact that job growth is increasing in California and we have added the highest number of jobs in the nation over the past year. Over the past two years, California has been making steady, substantial job gains. As the state's economy continues to gain strength, we believe that the upswing in job growth is here to stay."

United Way Worldwide's Mei Cobb, vice president of Volunteer & Employee Engagement, wrote a blog post Aug. 31 thanking working men and women who volunteer for the organization, which provides services in 41 countries and has 1,800 local organizations. "In the United States, we celebrate Labor Day on the first Monday in September to recognize the economic and social contributions of working men and women," Cobb wrote. "This Labor Day, I'd like to recognize two groups of union members who are volunteering in support of United Way initiatives. In Pittsburgh, PA, United Way of Allegheny County, the Allegheny County Labor Council and 15 unions are joining forces to hold the Union Youth Career Day on September 5th at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union No. 5 hall. Older teenagers and young adults will learn about job training and employment opportunities in the area, and tour the new Carpenters Union and IBEW's training centers. The Career Day is being held in the same week as United Way's Days of Caring, when more than 40 Pittsburgh-area union members will join corporate employee and other volunteers in refurbishing park trails and other activities to support United Way's initiatives in education, income and health. And in St. Paul, MN, more than 40 St. Paul Regional Labor Federation's Labor Studies and Resource Center union members and retirees recently came to 'speed volunteer' during the Greater Twin Cities United Way Action Day."

She explained speed volunteering "entails rapid assembly of items that improve lives." About 1,000 volunteers who assisted on Action Day packed snack lunches, produced safety kits for senior citizens, created 5,200 dental kits for children and adults, and helped young students with their homework, among other tasks, she reported.

Before joining the United Way, Cobb served as senior vice president for the Points of Light Foundation, founded in 1990 by former President George H.W. Bush.

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