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Facts for Features: Labor Day 2013, Sept. 2

Press Release Number CB13-FF.20

The first observance of Labor Day was likely on Sept. 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. Later that year, with Congress passing legislation and President Grover Cleveland signing the bill on June 29, the first Monday in September was designated "Labor Day." This national holiday is a creation of the labor movement in the late 19th century — and pays tribute to the social and economic achievements of American workers. 

Who Are We Celebrating?

155.7 million

Number of people 16 and over in the nation's labor force in May 2013.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Table A-1 <//www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf> [PDF - <1.0 MB]

Our Jobs

Largest Occupations May 2012 Number of employees
Retail salespeople 4,340,000
Cashiers 3,314,010
Combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food 2,943,810
Office clerks, general 2,808,100
Registered nurses 2,633,980
Waiters and waitresses 2,332,020
Customer service representatives 2,299,750
Laborers and freight, stock, and material movers, hand 2,143,940
Janitors and cleaners, except maids and housekeeping cleaners 2,097,380
Secretaries and administrative assistants, except legal medical, and executive 2,085,680

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment and wages for the largest and smallest occupations, May 2012

Largest Occupations 1910 Number of employees
Farmers (owners and tenants) 6,132,000
Farm laborers, wageworkers 2,832,000
Farm laborers, unpaid family workers 2,514,000
Operatives and kindred workers, manufacturing 2,318,000
Laborers, nonmanufacturing industries 2,210,000
Laborers, manufacturing 1,487,000
Salesmen and sales clerks, retail trade 1,454,000
Housekeepers, private household - living out 1,338,000
Managers, officials, and proprietors, retail trade 1,119,000
Mine operatives and laborers, crude petroleum and natural gas extraction 907,000

Source: Statistical Abstract, Bicentennial Edition: Historical Statistics of the United States, Colonial Times to 1970, Chaper D: Labor, Part 1, Page 20 of pdf, Series D 233-682. Detailed Occupation of the Economically Active Population: 1900 to 1970
<//www2.census.gov/prod2/statcomp/documents/CT1970p1-05.pdf> [PDF - 6.6 MB]

Note: 1910 data are not for comparison to current OES data since the two data sources are not comparable.


The number of paid employees (for pay period including March 12) who worked for a gasoline station in the U.S. 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.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2011 County Business Patterns <//www.census.gov/econ/cbp/>

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).
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2011 American Community Survey, Table C24010 <//factfinder2.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=ACS_11_1YR_C24010&prodType=table>


Percentage increase in employment in the U.S. 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).
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics <//www.bls.gov/news.release/cewqtr.nr0.htm>


Percentage increase over the year in employment in Elkhart, Ind., 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.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Another Day, Another Dollar

$48,202 and $37,118

The 2011 real median earnings for male and female full-time, year-round workers, respectively.
Source: Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2011, Table A-4

Fastest Growing Jobs


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).
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Employee Benefits


Percentage of full-time workers 18 to 64 covered by health insurance during all or part of 2011.
Source: Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2011, derived from Table 7

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.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2011 County Business Patterns


The number of sporting goods stores nationwide in 2011. In U.S. 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.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2011 County Business Patterns


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 U.S. workers a day of rest, many climb into their drivers' seats or board an airplane for a quick end of the summer getaway.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2011 American Community Survey, Table B24124

The Commute to Work

5.7 million

Number of commuters who left for work between midnight and 4:59 a.m. in 2011. They represented 4.3 percent of all commuters.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2011 American Community Survey, Table B08132


Percentage of workers 16 and over who worked from home in 2011.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2011 American Community Survey, Table B08128


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.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2011 American Community Survey, Table S0801

25.5 minutes

The average time it took workers in the U.S. to commute to work in 2011. Maryland and New York had the most time-consuming commutes, averaging 32.2 and 31.5 minutes, respectively.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2011 American Community Survey, Table R0801

For detailed information on the data force, visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics at <//www.bls.gov/>

The following is a list of observances typically covered by the Census Bureau’s Facts for Features series:

Black (African American) History Month (February)
Super Bowl
Valentine's Day (Feb. 14)
Women's History Month (March)
Irish-American Heritage Month (March)/
      St. Patrick's Day (March 17)
Earth Day (April 22)
Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month (May)
Older Americans Month (May)
Mother's Day
Hurricane Season Begins (June 1)
Father's Day
The Fourth of July (July 4)
Anniversary of Americans With Disabilities Act (July 26)
Back to School (August)
Labor Day
Grandparents Day
Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15-Oct. 15)
Unmarried and Single Americans Week
Halloween (Oct. 31)
American Indian/Alaska Native Heritage Month (November)
Veterans Day (Nov. 11)
Thanksgiving Day
The Holiday Season (December)

Editor’s note: The preceding data were collected from a variety of sources and may be subject to sampling variability and other sources of error. Facts for Features are customarily released about two months before an observance in order to accommodate magazine production timelines. Questions or comments should be directed to the Census Bureau’s Public Information Office: telephone: 301-763-3030; or e-mail: pio@census.gov.


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