business man relaxing on Labor Day

On Labor Day, Let’s Not Forget the Unemployed and Underemployed


Labor Day was set aside to honor the accomplishments of American workers. As we do that, let’s keep in mind those who are working to find employment.

Labor Day celebration

Labor Day has come to mark the end of summer, when families are back from summer vacation and school starts. We all look forward to having the day off, which creates a nice three-day weekend. It’s also a time for great retail sales, as part of back-to-school promotions.

All of that is a small reflection of the meaning behind this federal holiday. According to the Department of Labor, Labor Day honors “the social and economic achievements of American workers,” and their contributions to the “strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”

American workers do, indeed, deserve recognition for their contributions, and not only in the past. The current U.S. economy has not fully recovered from the Great Recession, but things are considerably better than they were a few years ago. And, this is due in no small part to the hard work and endurance of many of America’s workers.

The Unemployed and Underemployed

However, as we honor workers on Labor Day, let’s not forget those members of the workforce who are currently unemployed or underemployed. Here in DuPage County, we are relatively fortunate: our unemployment rate this June was 5.1%, which is half of its peak of 10.2% in 20101. Our unemployment rate is also significantly lower than the overall rate for Illinois, which is 6.0%1.

part-time, low-wage job

Even so, that means 5.1% of the DuPage workforce is currently out of work and seeking employment.

Additionally, underemployment remains a problem. For Illinois, the rate of the “total unemployed, plus discouraged workers, plus all other marginally attached workers” is 7.1%2. When you add in those who are “employed part time for economic reasons” the rate rises to 11.0%2, indicating that Illinois has an underemployment rate of about 5%.

That means, statistically speaking, 5% of our own workforce in DuPage County is stuck in part-time, and often lower-wage jobs.

Remembering the Entire Workforce on Labor Day

As we enjoy the upcoming three-day weekend with family and friends, and as we remember the achievements of American workers on Labor Day, let’s not forget that there are still members of the workforce who are struggling to find gainful and/or full-time employment.

To the unemployed and underemployed we say: you are not forgotten! We know that finding a job can be difficult, and that conducting your job search can add up to being a 40-hour workweek.

Also, remember that you are not alone – there are plenty of resources to help you in your job search. Here are just a few:

  • Job Clubs: DuPage County is home to many job clubs and networking groups that help job seekers during their period of transition. These include:
    • The Naperville Community Career Center, the St. Thomas Job Club (Naperville), the Lisle Township Job Club, and the Jobs Driven Networking Group (Wheaton), just to name a few. Be sure to download our comprehensive list of job clubs and other groups in the DuPage area.
    • And, don’t forget that workNet DuPage has its own job club that meets two Fridays every month. Be sure to check out the list of upcoming meetings.
  • The People’s Resource Center helps people meet basic needs, including food, clothing, and rent assistance, and offers skill-building resources, such as literacy classes, job assistance, and computer training.
  • The National Able Network’s Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), provides unemployed and retired mature adults employment assistance and training to get back into the workforce.
  • Poised for Success serves women in Chicago and the suburbs by providing business attire for a job interview and the first week of employment.
  • The workNet DuPage Career Center offers a variety of free services to job seekers who live in DuPage County, or who were laid off from a company in DuPage County.

You are not alone

So, no matter what your employment situation is, make the most of your nice long, traditionally end-of-summer weekend. Focus on what you can celebrate, while remembering those less fortunate than you.

If you are unemployed or underemployed, resolve to make use of whatever appropriate services are available to you once the holiday is over. Refreshed and positive after the celebratory holiday, think of September as a new beginning for your job search.

If you are gainfully employed, resolve to help someone who isn’t, in whatever way you can.

Happy Labor Day!

1 Data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, for the month of June, 2016.

2 Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, for the period Q3 2015 through Q2 2016.