Celebrating Labor Day: A Profile of American Labor

Aissa Yazzie &150; Navajo Nation, prepares for a career inNative Environmental Science at Northwestern Indian College

Aissa Yazzie &150; Navajo Nation, prepares for a career in
Native Environmental Science at Northwestern Indian College

Source: Native News Network

WASHINGTON – Labor Day pays tribute to the social and economic achievements of American workers. The first observance of Labor Day was likely on September 5, 1882, when some 10,000 workers assembled in New York City for a parade. That celebration inspired similar events across the country, and by 1894 more than half the states were observing a “workingmen’s holiday” on one day or another.

That same year, Congress passed legislation and President Grover Cleveland signed the bill on June 29, the first Monday in September would be designated as “Labor Day.” This national holiday is a creation of the labor movement in the late 19th century.

The following statistics that provide an overview of the labor force in the country today were furnished by the US Census Bureau:

Who Are We Celebrating?

155.7 million

Number of people 16 and over in the nation’s labor force in May 2013.

Our Jobs

Largest Occupations May 2012

Retail Salespeople
4,340,000 employees

3,314,010 employees

Combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food
2,943,810 employees

Office clerks, general
2,808,100 employees

Registered nurses
2,633,980 employees

Waiters and waitresses
2,332,020 employees

Customer service representatives
2,299,750 employees

Laborers and freight, stock, and material movers, hand
2,143,940 employees

Janitors and cleaners, except maids and housekeeping cleaners
2,097,380 employees

Secretaries and administrative assistants, except legal medical, and executive
2,085,680 employees

Largest Occupations 1910

Farmers (owners and tenants)
6,132,000 employees

Farm laborers, wageworkers
2,832,000 employees

Farm laborers, unpaid family workers
2,514,000 employees

Operatives and kindred workers, manufacturing
2,318,000 employees

Laborers, nonmanufacturing industries
2,210,000 employees

Laborers, manufacturing
1,487,000 employees

Salesmen and sales clerks, retail trade
1,454,000 employees

Housekeepers, private household – living out
1,338,000 employees

Managers, officials, and proprietors, retail trade
1,119,000 employees

Mine operatives and laborers, crude petroleum & natural gas extraction
907,000 employees


The number of paid employees (for pay period including March 12) who worked for a gasoline station in the US in 2011. Oregon was the first state to make Labor Day a holiday in February 1887. Oregon (9,634 paid gasoline station employees), along with New Jersey (15,734 paid gasoline station employees), are the only states without self-service gasoline stations.

15.9 million

The number of wage and salary workers age 16 and over represented by a union in 2012. This group includes both union members (14.4 million) and workers who report no union affiliation but whose jobs are covered by a union contract (1.6 million).

14.5 million

Number of female workers 16 and over in service occupations in 2011. Among male workers 16 and over, 11.2 million were employed in service-related occupations.

1.9 Percent

Percentage increase in employment in the US between December 2011 and December 2012. Employment increased in 287 of the 328 largest counties (large counties are defined as having employment levels of 75,000 or more).

7.4 Percent

Percentage increase over the year in employment in Elkhart, Indiana, between December 2011 and December 2012, compared with national job growth of 1.9 percent. Within Elkhart, the largest employment increase occurred in manufacturing, which gained 5,479 jobs over the year.

Another Day, Another Dollar

$48,202 and $37,118

The 2011 real median earnings for male and female full-time, year-round workers, respectively.

Fastest Growing Jobs

70 Percent

Projected percentage growth from 2010 to 2020 in the number of personal care aides (607,000). Analysts expect this occupation to grow much faster than the average for all occupations. Meanwhile, the occupation expected to add more positions over this period than any other is registered nurses (711,900).

Employee Benefits

84.7 Percent

Percentage of full-time workers 18 to 64 covered by health insurance during all or part of 2011.

Say Goodbye to Summer

Labor Day is celebrated by most Americans as the symbolic end of the summer and the start of the back-to-school season.


The number of shoe stores for back-to-school shopping in 2011. Other choices of retail establishments abound: there were 28,128 family clothing stores, 7,093 children and infants clothing stores, 8,144 office supply and stationery stores, 8,407 bookstores and 8,625 department stores.


The number of sporting goods stores nationwide in 2011. In US sports, college football teams usually play their first games the week before Labor Day, with the NFL traditionally playing their first game the Thursday following Labor Day.


The number of travel agents employed full time, year-round in 2011. In addition, there were 15,067 tour and travel guides employed full time, year-round nationwide, according to the 2011 American Community Survey. On a weekend intended to give US workers a day of rest, many climb into their drivers’ seats or board an airplane for a quick end of the summer getaway.

The Commute to Work

5.7 million

Number of commuters who left for work between midnight and 4:59 am in 2011. They represented 4.3 percent of all commuters.

4.3 Percent

Percentage of workers 16 and over who worked from home in 2011.

76.4 Percent

Percentage of workers 16 and over who drove alone to work in 2011. Another 9.7 percent carpooled and 2.8 percent walked from home.

25.5 Minutes

The average time it took workers in the US to commute to work in 2011. Maryland and New York had the most time-consuming commutes, averaging 32.2 and 31.5 minutes, respectively.