Laborers driving force behind economy

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By The Staff

Tomorrow is Labor Day. For many workers (those lucky enough to have jobs), it’s a holiday. But not so much for those who provide law enforcement and emergency medical services.

Schools and government offices are also closed. It’s summer’s last hurrah. The extended weekend means cookouts, picnics and last-minute getaways.

The reason we celebrate Labor Day dates all the way back to Sept. 5, 1882 in New York City. American labor leader Peter J. McGuire, also a Carpenters and Joiners Union secretary, organized the first parade of about 10,000 workers. McGuire was inspired after witnessing a labor festival in Toronto.

By 1893, more than half the states were observing some form of Labor Day festivities.

In 1894, Congress passed a bill to establish a federal holiday. Soon afterward, President Grover Cleveland signed the bill designating the first Monday in September as Labor Day.

Just who are celebrating? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 154.4 million people, 16 or over, who are in the nation’s labor force as of May 2010.

Other labor facts, according to Census info:

u 83 percent of full-time workers, ages 18-64, were covered by health insurance during all or part of 2008

u 78 percent of workers in the private industry received paid vacation as part of their employment benefits

u 7.6 million people have more than one job. Moonlighters make up about 5 percent of the working population. About 4 million work full time at their primary job and part time at their other job.

u 284,000 moonlighters work two full-time jobs

u 10.1 million people are self-employed

u 27 percent of workers, 16 or older, work more than 40 hours a week. About 7 percent work 60 or more hours a week.

u Workers have been with their company a median of 4.1 years. About 10 percent of workers have been with their company for 20 years or more.

u There are 5.9 million people who work at home

u The 2008 real median earnings for male and female full-time, year-round workers are $46,367 and $35,745, respectively.

u 17.7 million commuters leave for work between midnight and 5:59 a.m.

u 76 percent of workers drive alone to work. Another 11 percent carpool and 5 percent take public transportation.

u Average commute time to work is 25.5 minutes

u 3.5 million of workers face extreme commutes of 90 or more minutes each day

A sampling of the number of workers in some occupations are: 7.2 million teachers; 2.1 million janitors and building cleaners; 1 million computer software engineers; 2.8 million nurses; 441,000 clergy; 373,000 taxi drivers and chauffeurs; 351,000 chefs and head cooks and 751,000 farmers and ranchers. There are many more occupations with numerous employees.

Laborers are the driving force behind our economic machine (as precarious as it is). And they deserve their day.

We’re grateful for a day that specifically recognizes the accomplishments of workers.

No matter how you choose to spend your day, we wish you a great Labor Day. Then get some rest. Because it’s back to work on Tuesday.