Diversity & Inclusion

Labor Day 2008: September 1

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the first observance of Labor Day is believed to have been a parade of 10,000 workers on September 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 Congress passed a bill to establish a federal holiday in 1894.

President Grover Cleveland signed the bill soon afterward, designating the first Monday in September as Labor Day. Here are some statistics about America’s workforce from the U.S. Census Bureau:

  • In May 2008, there were 154.5 million people age 16 and older in the nation’s labor force, including 82.6 million men and 71.9 million women.
  • Of the full-time workers 18 to 64, 82 percent were covered by health insurance during all or part of 2006.
  • In private industry, 77 percent of workers receive a paid vacation as one of their employment benefits. In addition:
  • 77 percent of workers receive paid holidays;
  • 15 percent have access to employer assistance for child care;
  • 12 percent have access to long-term care insurance; and
  • 71 percent have access to medical care, 46 percent to dental care, 29 percent to vision care, and 64 percent to outpatient prescription drug coverage.
  • There are 7.7 million workers who hold down more than one job. So-called moonlighters comprise five percent of the working population. Of these, four million work full time at their primary job and part time at their other job.
  • There are about 288,000 moonlighters who work full time at both jobs.
  • There are 10.4 million self-employed workers.
  • There are 22 million female workers age 16 and older in educational services and health care and social assistance industries. Among male workers age 16 and older, 11.5 million were employed in manufacturing industries.
  • Of workers age 16 and older, 28 percent work more than 40 hours a week. Eight percent work 60 or more hours a week.
  • There are 10.3 million independent contractors. Other workers with alternative work arrangements include 2.5 million on-call workers, 1.2 million temporary help agency workers, and 813,000 workers provided by contract firms.
  • There are 15.6 million labor union members nationwide. About 12 percent of wage and salary workers belong to unions, with Hawaii and New York having among the highest rates of any state. North Carolina has one of the lowest rates, three percent.
  • There are 5.4 million people who work at home.
  • There are 16.7 million commuters who leave for work between midnight and 5:59 a.m. These early birds represent 13 percent of all workers.
  • Seventy-six percent of workers drive alone to work. Another 11 percent carpooled, and five percent took public transportation (excluding taxicabs).
  • The average time it takes to commute to work for residents of New York state is 30.9 minutes. New York residents had the most time-consuming commute in the nation, followed by that of Maryland residents with 30.6 minutes. The national average was 25 minutes.
  • There are 3.1 million workers who face extreme commutes to work of 90 or more minutes each day.