Monday, September 03, 2007

A salute to American workers

Like so many holidays, Labor Day is losing its significance.

For many, it's the unofficial end of summer, one last long weekend at the shore or at the campground.

Few communities do much to observe Labor Day. There are occasional parades and ceremonies by unions, but for the most part, few people take the time to think about what Labor Day means and why we celebrate it.

The first observance of Labor Day is believed to have been a parade of 10,000 workers on Sept. 5, 1882, in New York City, organized by Peter J. McGuire, a Carpenters and Joiners Union secretary. By 1893, more than half the states were observing a “Labor Day” on one day or another, and a bill to establish a federal holiday was passed by Congress in 1894. President Grover Cleveland signed the bill soon afterward — designating the first Monday in September as Labor Day.

Here are some statistics available at the U.S. Census Bureau Web site about America's work force.

There are 151 million who work for a living out of a total U.S. population of 300 million. The working population consists of 81.2 million men and 69.8 million women above the age of 16.

About 82 percent of workers 18 to 64 are covered by health insurance.

Only 77 percent of workers in private industry receive a paid vacation as one of their employment benefits. In addition, 77 percent of workers receive paid holidays, 14 percent have access to employer assisted child care and 11 percent have access to long-term care insurance.

The median salary for full-time male workers in 2006 was $40,798, but just $31,223 for female workers.

The number of workers who hold down more than one job is 7.5 million. These so-called moonlighters make up just 5 percent of the working population. Of those moonlighters, 3.9 million work full time at their primary job and part time at their other job. About 294,000 workers work two full-time jobs. When do they sleep?

The number of self-employed workers in the U.S. is 10.5 million. The number of people who work from home is 5 million.

It seems a lot of people work for the government these days. The number of state government employees has reached 5.1 million. The number of civilian employees at the federal government has reached 2.7 million. The Census Bureau doesn’t keep track of how many people work for local or state governments.

Besides wages, there is a growing gap between men and women in the type of jobs they hold.

The number of women in educational, health and social service industries is 20.4 million. Manufacturing is the top category for men, with 11.4 million.

What percentage of workers 16 and older work more than 40 hours? The answer is 28 percent. Eight percent of workers reported working 60 or more hours per week.

Americans are changing employers more than ever, spending an average of four years at each job. About 10 percent of those employed have been with their current employer for 20 or more years.

About 5 percent of workers say they work the evening shift (any time between 2 p.m. and midnight) and another 3 percent work the night shift (any time between 9 p.m. and 8 a.m.).

The number of unionized workers continues to decline. Just 15.5 million American workers belong to a labor union.

The most popular job in the U.S.? Teaching. About 6.8 million Americans are teachers.

The amount of time the average American spends commuting to work? More than 100 hours, which exceeds the typical two weeks vacation time taken by U.S. workers over the course of a year.

So enjoy some time off on this Labor Day. You've earned it.

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