“Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”
The United States of America is a working nation. Our economy, social safety nets and society are oriented toward much of the working population either working or actively seeking employment.
In the post-World War II era, 1948-2023, labor participation rates averaged 62.84%. In fact, just prior to the pandemic shutdown, the peak labor participation was over 67.3 percent in January 2020. Male participation rates, according to the Richmond Federal Reserve, have fallen from 80% in 1970 to 69% in 2020 and continue to decline in nuanced ways.
While imperfect, this “system” is the envy of nations around the world. Study after study suggests that working people have purpose, have structure in their lives, provide a more stable home for children and reduce the overall cost of healthcare in our communities. Working people fuel small businesses and are often referred to as the backbone of America’s economy. A working population fuels our national defense, and the payroll taxes provide the revenue that secures our social security system.
This is a time of great change in working norms and within our economy. Machine learning and artificial intelligence may take some jobs and create others, we are working from home more and commuting less, and our consumer behaviors are changing retail patterns that have stayed consistent for a generation or two. All of that is a reality and is both scary and exciting. Change is healthy and necessary.
However, there are some areas where we should work very, very hard for consistency and stability. Remaining a working nation is one of those areas. Let’s have a great week, lift each other up, move forward and go to work!
– Kenny McDonald