This Labor Day, celebrate economic growth

Among the modern American Labor Day traditions are cookouts, excursions to large bodies of water, and politicians portraying America as a battle-scarred, Marxist’s nightmare where the ruling class preys mercilessly on defenseless commoners.  

For instance, in 2011, President Obama said “the decks were too often stacked against ordinary folks in favor of the special interests” and “these are tough times for working Americans.”

In 2014, Bernie Sanders said in Manchester, “It is no secret right now that the billionaire class and the big money interests are targeting organized labor.”

But it wasn’t always this way. In his Labor Day speech of 1903, Teddy Roosevelt made the case that Americans of all classes share an interest in economic growth.

“It cannot be too often repeated that in this country, in the long run, we all of us tend to go up or go down together. If the average of well-being is high, it means that the average wage-worker, the average farmer, and the average businessman are all alike well off. If the average shrinks, there is not one of these classes which will not feel the shrinkage…”

The idea that we all fare well during periods of economic growth and poorly during periods of recession (a rising tide lifts all boats, as another famous president said) is out of fashion in some circles these days. 

On Labor Day weekend 2019, politicians may tell tales of terrible times, but most Granite Staters will have their own experience as evidence that Roosevelt was right.

  • New Hampshire in July boasted the largest labor force in its history, at 770,000 people. That month, 751,150 New Hampshire residents had jobs. There are more Granite Staters with jobs than there are Vermonters — in total. New Hampshire has a larger labor force than Maine, though the states have similar populations. 
  • Business boomed, and wage increases followed. New Hampshire posted the largest year-over-year wage gains of any New England state in 2018 (though that growth rate has slowed so far this year). Among New England states, only Massachusetts has had a higher rate of growth in personal income since the recession, according to Pew Charitable Trusts research.
  • New Hampshire scored a No. 1 ranking in U.S. News & World Report’s list of best states for opportunity, helping it land the No. 2 Best State ranking overall. It ranked best in New England for economic growth.  
  • There’s so much opportunity in New Hampshire that thousands of millennials are moving here instead of to Brooklyn. A study of Census data by SmartAsset put New Hampshire in the top ten for millennial in-migration. 

There are always areas for improvement, but these are good times for New Hampshire. Taxes are low. Employment has never been higher. Growth is creating so much opportunity that the biggest economic problem is finding enough people to fill all the jobs.   

Labor Day is a time when politicians wax nostalgic about the labor strife of the early 20th century. But if life for the Regular Joe or Jane in New Hampshire today had a soundtrack, it would sound more like LMFAO than Woody Guthrie. 

To keep the party going, the state should stay focused on policies that promote growth, not redistribution.