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The Economy in Perspective

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Between labor and play stands work. A man is a worker if he is personally interested in the job which society pays him to do; what from the point of view of society is necessary labor is from his point of view voluntary play. Whether a job is to be classified as labor or work depends, not on the job itself, but on the tastes of the individual who undertakes it. The difference does not, for example, coincide with the difference between a manual and a mental job; a gardener or a cobbler may be a worker, a bank clerk a laborer.

——W.H. Auden, “Work, Labor, and Play,” in A Certain World: A Commonplace Book (1970).

As we discuss elsewhere in this issue, nonfarm payrolls increased by 144,000 jobs in August, and employment gains were revised upward in both June and July. Depending on how one looks at it, the glass is either half full or half empty—payroll employment has expanded by 1.4 million jobs since the beginning of the year, or about half the 2.7 million total jobs lost since March 2001.

Suggested citation: "The Economy in Perspective," Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Economic Trends, no. 04-09, pp. 01, 09.01.2004.

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