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Monday, September 03, 2012

Labor Day and the End of Summer

Today is Labor Day in both the United States and Canada.  

Interestingly, the holiday’s origins, which I chronicled in a previous article on, in the two nations were similar and workers and labor leaders in each drew inspiration from each other. 

Canadian Flag on Stern of Maid of Mist Boat at 
Niagara Falls Canada
(Photo Copyright © 2012 by Chuck Nugent)

In the same year, Congress in the United States and Parliament in Canada each enacted laws establishing the first Monday in September as Labor Day and making that day a national holiday in their respective nations.  

The U.S. Congress passed the Labor Day law on June 28, 1894 and the Canadian Parliament passed their law less than a month later on July 23, 1894.  Both nations selected the same day - the first Monday in September - as the official date of Labor Day in their respective nations.

While Labor Day started out as a day to honor each nation’s workers, it has, over the years, come to mark the unofficial end of the summer vacation season.  By the time Labor Day arrives, the days are getting shorter and cooler, the vacation season is over for many and children are beginning to return to school.

In fact it is probably the start of the new school term that has caused Labor Day to become the unofficial end of the summer season.  

Traffic Heading out of Town for Weekend
(Photo Copyright © 2012 by Chuck Nugent)

Over the years, economic growth has resulted in both rising wages and shorter work hours.  The increased use of capital has allowed workers to greatly increase their productivity - in other words, using machines and other forms of productive capital, a worker can produce as much in a 40 hour week as previously in a 60 to 80 hour week.

This increased productivity has resulted in labor’s share of the increase in revenue from the sale of the larger output to increase.  Workers have, over the years, chosen to take part of this increase in the form of higher pay and part in the form of fewer work hours which translates into shorter work weeks and increased holidays and vacation time.
 Summer Fun at Seattle's Sea Fest
(Photo Copyright © 2012 by Chuck Nugent)

Higher incomes per worker eliminated the need rely on income from both parents and children in order for the family to survive.  As a result children have been able to leave the workforce and go to school.

Higher incomes have also enabled families to travel and engage in recreational activities together on their summer vacations as well as their two days off on weekends (historically the work week was Monday through Saturday with only Sunday off).

The combination of longer days, warm weather, children off from school, parents with vacation time and households with income in excess of what is needed for mere survival have all combined to make summer the ideal time for families to relax, travel and engage in recreational activities.

Hence, a holiday that both honors the contributions of the nation’s workers as well as one more day off for workers to enjoy the fruits of their success.
 Summer Vacationing at Niagara Falls
(Photo Copyright © 2012 by Chuck Nugent)

Links to other Labor Day articles by me:


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