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By Senator Mike Crapo

For many, Labor Day is the final burst across the finish line of summer. We intend to take time over the summer to relax, but reality can instead resemble a race through June, July and August, our list of things to do (fun and inevitable summer projects), often keeping us busier than we are the rest of the year. Consequently, Labor Day becomes a needed last shot at summer recreation before fall routines begin. Labor Day is time away from work, but also helps us appreciate the fact that we have jobs and employment opportunities, inside or outside the home. 


Labor Day is thought to have begun in 1882, in New York City, when a Carpenters and Joiners Union secretary organized a parade of 10,000 workers. A decade later, many states were observing some sort of "Labor Day," and, in 1894, President Grover Cleveland designated the first Monday in September as "Labor Day."   


Some interesting Labor Day facts from the Census Bureau include:


Ø       Our nation's labor force of 152.8 million people, 16 and older, includes 82.1 million men and 70.7 million women.

Ø       10.6 million people are self-employed.

Ø       There are 6.8 million teachers in the U.S. 784,000, farmers and ranchers work our land. 

Ø       A whopping 310,000 moonlighters report full time work at both jobs.

Ø       21.1 million women, 16 and older, work in educational services, health care and social assistance career fields.


A recent U.N. report, issued by the International Labor Organization (ILO), found that Americans work longer hours than residents of Europe and other wealthy nations. In 2006, American workers produced more wealth on average than any other nation and were second only to Norwegians in hourly wealth production. The American worker put in 1,804 hours of work in 2006; although this was less than a counterpart in some Asian countries ( South Korea , Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, China, Malaysia and Thailand) who worked over 2,200 hours, American workers' overall productivity was significantly higher. 


The report noted that in countries with high ratios of hours worked to wealth production, there was a lack of investment in training, equipment and technology. The ILO's head of employment observed that increased U.S. productivity "has to do with the ICT (information and communication technologies) revolution, with the way the U.S. organizes companies, with the high level of competition in the country, with the extension of trade and investment abroad." This is good news, and reinforces the need to focus on maintaining our position as the leader of this pack. 


In any tight race, the best and most difficult place to be is out in front. This is certainly true when it comes to competition in global markets, for example. We have the opportunity to keep our markets competitive by revisiting and revising outdated regulations. I'm confident about both the short term and long term prospects of the newly-formed Senate Capital Markets Task Force which I'm fortunate enough to be able to lead. Today, we have the chance to make substantive changes to keep the United States the leader in productivity and keep our markets the most attractive for new business. Just as critical, competitive market environments help the U.S. retain the credit that well-established industries and businesses afford us by keeping their investments here rather than in markets overseas. 


Labor Day has become an end-of-summer ritual for many. Labor Day is also a time to be thankful for the fact that we have employment opportunities. Most importantly, it's a time to think about our future and keeping job and investment opportunities here for our children and grandchildren.