By Richard Carlson, President and CEO
As a means of honoring the economic and social contributions of U.S. workers, Labor Day first became a federal holiday 120 years ago, in 1894. Just eight years later, the Rev. Edgar J. Helms founded Goodwill Industries. Then, as today, Goodwill has been providing the programs and supports that workers often need to achieve their full potential, throughout North America and here in the West Michigan area.
We are reminded on Labor Day of the power of work to transform lives. Good-paying jobs allow people from all backgrounds to support themselves and their families, and contribute to the country’s economic vitality. And those who are unemployed or underemployed invariably struggle to make ends meet.
Recent statistics show that the number of unemployed Americans has hovered right around the 10 million mark this year, showing a slight improvement from 2013 figures. While people are finding jobs and the number of long-term unemployed persons is dropping slowly, approximately 2 million people are described as being marginally attached to the labor market. That means they wanted to and were available for work, but hadn’t looked for a job in the previous month. Among those, approximately 700,000 Americans are considered discouraged workers, meaning they’ve stopped looking for work because they believe no jobs exist for them. Together, we still have much work to do in growing our economic health and helping our neighbors prepare for, find and keep good jobs.
Goodwill works hard to meet the needs of all job seekers, including those here in West Michigan. In the past year, Goodwill agencies helped more than 9.8 million people train for careers and helped more than 261,000 people earn jobs. In West Michigan we placed 1,380 people in new employment. Goodwill also provided the supporting services workers need to be successful, such as work readiness and job retention training, Beyond Jobs services for women, financial wellness coaching and supports as well as career planning and development.
Everyone can take part. By donating to Goodwill of Industries of West Michigan donors help create opportunities for those looking for work. That’s because the items sold in Goodwill stores go to fund Goodwill’s skills training and job placement services for people throughout the region.