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On Labor Day, it's all about jobs

Members of the United Steel Workers union march in the Detroit Labor Day Parade.

Today, Labor Day, we examine labor policy. Markets are closed so we're looking ahead to President Obama's Thursday speech in which he lays out what he would like to do to promote job growth in the U.S.

Among the ideas that might provide inspiration comes from the state of Georgia. We spoke to Michael Thurmond, who - when he was Georgia's labor commissioner - created the program Georgia Works. The idea was to hook up the long-term unemployed with reluctant employers. Under the program, an employer gives six weeks of subsidized training to an unemployed person. The unemployed person continues to get benefits, and receives a small stipend. The program is simple and doesn't cost a lot of money. According to Thurmond, 25 percent of the people in the program are hired by the employer. Thurmond says the program not only provides training; it also gives the unemployed self-esteem, and a better resume.

We also spoke with Timothy Bartik, senior economist at the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research. He agrees that the program is inexpensive and easy to implement, but he disagrees with claims that Georgia Works can help solve the nation's unemployment problem. He says that programs such as Georgia Works are fine when the unemployment rate is low - and the problem is matching workers and their skills with all the open jobs. But when jobs are few - like today - the program just results in a long-term unemployed person taking a job that would be filled by someone else.

Bartik says that we need programs that create new jobs, millions of them. But he concedes these programs are extremely expensive, and unlikely to get through a Congress focused squarely on deficit reduction.

So here we stand; business wishing for something to stimulate growth; government unwilling to stimulate; and millions of Americans who really just want to do a day's hard work.


Also on the show, the Marketplace Daily Index is down a point once again on news that work stoppages and strikes are on the rise. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that we're tracking to have more workers on strike this year than last, and their numbers don't include the 45,000 Verizon workers that ended their strike last week.

About the author

David Brancaccio is the host of Marketplace Morning Report. Follow David on Twitter @DavidBrancaccio

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