While Labor Day is mostly used to say farewell to summer and get in one last celebration before school starts, it began in 1882 when 10,000 New York City workers in the Central Labor Union took unpaid leave to gather for a parade and speeches. They actually got the idea from Canada, where Toronto workers started speaking out for more rights for workers in 1872.
During the Industrial Revolution, most working Americans (including children) put in 12-hour days, 7 days a week. After the New York laborers decided they deserved a day off, many other cities copied their idea of a “working man’s holiday”, and in 1894, President Cleveland designated the first Monday of September “Labor Day”. Twenty-three years later, the 8-hour work day was established.
While the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, 29 states boast higher minimums, and 4 cities in the U.S. have established a $15 minimum: New York City (and now the whole state), Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.
As of Labor Day 2015, there were 157 million people over the age of 16 in the American labor force. The top three largest occupations are: retail sales, with over 4.5 million employees, cashiers, with about 3.4 million, and food preparation and service, with 3.1 million.
Speaking of retail, Labor Day is, somewhat ironically, one of the biggest shopping weekends in the U.S., giving retail workers their longest, busiest hours.
As of 2015, the average family spends $600-900 on back-to-school shopping. The back-to-school industry is the second highest category for spending (after the winter holidays), reaching $68 billion last year.
(But move over retail, because the occupation that is projected to add the most new positions in the next decade, about 580,000 in all, is personal care aides. Thanks baby boomers!)
The average U.S. employee works 47 hours per week, but since 2007, 12% more Americans are opting for part-time work and a more flexible schedule instead of a traditional, full-time job.
As the economy becomes more and more global, more and more Americans are working from home either as independent entrepreneurs, or employees who telecommute at least once a week. In 2013, 30 million Americans worked from home, that’s about 1 in 5 working adults. That’s up from 432,000 in 2010. The number is expected to rise 63% in the next five years.