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U.S. workers will overcome challenge

Yesterday was a Labor Day that for many was a holiday not worth celebrating. Too many of our family members, friends, neighbors and in some cases, former co-workers are in trouble. Plenty of room remains for pride in what working men and women accomplish, however. Reflecting upon it gives us reason for optimism, in fact.

Last Labor Day, we Americans were riding on top of the world. The U.S. unemployment rate was just 4.8%. Nothing could stop us. Six months ago we received a rude awakening. COVID-19 not only stopped us — it shoved us backward. At the peak of the business slowdown linked to the epidemic, more than 25 million American workers had been laid off — or, in some cases, lost their jobs permanently. We have begun recovering. Since that peak of joblessness in May, roughly 9 million Americans have gotten back to work. That still leaves the unemployment rate at 8.4% — with more than 14 million men and women who are not collecting paychecks.

In Ohio it appears the recovery has been slightly faster than in some other regions. The last full month of numbers released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed the Ohio unemployment rate at 8.9%. That percentages can be deceiving, however. Behind it lies the fact that more than 502,000 Ohioans remain off the job.

Of course, the politicians pledge to fix all that. This being a presidential election year, claims of what incumbents have accomplished and what challengers will achieve for working men and women are a dime a dozen.

Once in office, neither Republicans nor Democrats seem able to resist the temptation to improve upon what we in the labor force do, day in and day out. They tinker with interest rates, pick winners and losers in awarding economic incentives and, conversely, using regulations to penalize industries that have fallen out of favor. In scores of ways, they engage in initiatives intended mostly to allow them to claim they create jobs. Very rarely is that true. We who actually make the economy run know better. Often, we just wish government at every level would do something truly helpful — by holding taxes as low as possible and getting out of our way by refraining from establishing new regulations that slow us down.

The situation will get better. Not because of politicians but rather, because of tens of millions of hard-working, ingenious men and women who have made our economy, with all its flaws, the envy of the world. At last count, more than 45 million of the people in our country were immigrants, both legal and illegal.

Why do they come here? For opportunity. They recognize that if they are willing to work hard and do the best jobs they are capable of, the United States offers them better lives. COVID-19 has forced temporary adjustments for millions of Americans. It will result in long-term restructuring for many.

We’ll get through it, however. We will emerge from this setback stronger than ever economically, for one reason: American working people. We and our ancestors have overcome adversity of many kinds before. We will do it again. You can count on that.

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