Unemployment numbers sobering news

Clyde Davis

“Today, nearly 15 million Americans are still out of work. But even that may not be an accurate figure because the real unemployment numbers are probably a good deal higher than the “official” rate.

The official rate doesn’t count the underemployed and people who’ve given up and simply dropped out of the labor market. When those two groups are added, the rate may be as high as 17 percent.”

(Daniel A. Cirucci, http://www.philly.com/dailynews/)

This ought to be sobering news, as we celebrate a weekend given over to the dignity of work, the right to work and the honor which is connected to men and women who work for a living. Indeed, growing up in the steel-mill and coal-mining atmosphere of western Pennsylvania, I could not help but be aware of the value, and the expectation, of holding an honest job.

“The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union.

The Central Labor Union held its second Labor Day holiday just a year later, on Sept. 5, 1883.

In 1884, the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday.”

(http://www.dol.gov/)

Certainly, at that time, the average life of the worker was not as it is now. Indeed, many of the rights we now take for granted were won by the labor leaders of those early days.

The opening statistics, however, show a different side of the coin. It may not be a Constitutional, but it seems to be to be an ethical, mandate that a society as advanced as we claim to be should be able to find a place of employment for anyone who wants to hold a job, and to use that job to support himself or herself.

Perhaps there is a distribution-of-resources issue here. It is way beyond the scope of this columnist to assess the complicated factors involved in why the unemployment rate in our country is so high.

It does, however, raise some issues which any reasonably concerned human being ought to be concerned about. These concerns may come into sharper relief when one is approaching the situation as an educator.

My mission, at whatever level I am teaching, is to build confidence in the people whom I teach. This is going to be so, whether they are 13 years old, or 30 years old.

(Or, for that matter, 3 years old.)

This should be justified confidence, not a false sense of competence. That much is true.

In order to do so, I need to be able to make them believe that there is a future worth working for. Success in their minds may not be financial, but should allow for a 2015 (the year when my eighth-graders will graduate) that opens the probability of a career that is fulfilling and rewarding.

Fortunately, my 13-year-old students are not aware enough to grasp what a 17 percent unemployment rate means — the reality that a lot of hardworking and proud people have no job to go to.

I will leave it to you, the reader, to decide how you will parcel out the responsibility for this; I am sure that there is no single focus of blame, but rather a number of causes.

I just hope the picture gets brighter, with more reality and less empty words.

Clyde Davis is a Presbyterian pastor and teacher at Clovis Christian Middle School. He can be contacted at:

clyde_davis@yahoo.com