If you are a working man — or a working woman — today we pay tribute to you.
As a nation, we depend on workers to pave our streets, grow and ship our food, stitch our clothes, build our electronics, repair our cars, clean our schools, transport the goods we consume, build our homes, care for our children, stock store shelves, install appliances, monitor water supplies, harvest forests, police our streets and millions — literally millions — of other tasks every day.
Labor Day, a national holiday for family, friends and food as we mark the unofficial end of summer, is also a day most of us have "off" from work.
The first observance of Labor Day was in 1882 in New York City when 10,000 workers assembled for a parade through the city streets.
That was the year of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s birth and Charles Darwin’s death, a year that witnessed professional baseball’s first doubleheader between Providence and Worcester and then welcomed the formation of the American League. That year, the U.S. Senate ratified a treaty establishing the Red Cross, and Americans marveled as Thomas Edison strung together the first electric Christmas lights.
It was a time when laborers were building the nation’s transportation infrastructure and constructing our major cities. And, it was the first time that Congress acted to curtail immigration through The Chinese Exclusion Act out of prejudice and fear of Chinese domination of labor.
At the time, this country was home to 50.2 million Americans. Today, there are 317 million residents here. Of those, 155.7 million are in the nation’s labor force. Of those, 14.4 million belong to a union and 1.6 million work in jobs that are covered by a union contract even though they do not have a union affiliation.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is reporting the largest occupation in this country is retail salespeople, with 4.3 million working retail. Another 3.3 million work as cashiers.
They work in 25,448 shoe stores, 28,128 family clothing stores, 7,093 children and infant clothing stores, 8,144 office supply and stationery stores, 8,407 bookstores, 8,625 department stores and 21,227 sporting goods stores across the country.
The number of food prep and food service workers, including fast food, is 2.9 million. In our restaurants, there are 2.3 million people working as waiters and waitresses.
There are 2.8 million office clerks and another 2 million secretaries and administrative assistants. There are, 2.6 million nurses, 2.3 million customer service representatives, 2 million janitors and 2.1 million laborers, freight operators and movers.
Of the 25.7 million people employed in service occupations in this country, 14.5 million are women and 11.2 million are men.
A hundred years ago, the top occupations were very different. We were a nation of 92 million people, 6.1 million of whom were farm owners or tenants. Another 2.8 million people worked as farm laborers or wage workers, and 2.5 million worked as unpaid laborers on family farms.
There were 2.3 million people operating manufacturing machines and another 1.5 million in other manufacturing jobs. And, according to the DoL, there were 2.2 million laborers working in non-manufacturing jobs.
Salesmen and sales clerks working retail numbered 1.5 million and another 1.1 million worked as retail managers or owners in 1910.
In 2010, 1.4 million worked as housekeepers in private homes. A century ago, there were 1.3 million such workers.
A century ago this country was home to nearly a million mine and natural fuel laborers; today there are just over 100,000.
The fastest growing occupation right now is personal care aide, with 607,000 more people expected to enter this health care field between 2010 and 2020.
But, the occupation expected to add the most positions over the same time frame is registered nurses, with 711,900 expected to join the nation’s nursing corps.
The median year-round full-time earnings for men is $48,202 according to the latest Census, and $37,118 for women.
Of the 155.7 million people in the American workforce, 4.3 percent of them work from home. And the rest? The average time it takes to commute one way to work in this country is 25.5 minutes, with commuters in Maryland and New York spending the most travel time, averaging 32.2 and 31.5 minutes, respectively.
In Maine, the average commute time is 22.8 minutes. Residents of Aroostook County have the fastest commutes at 16.7 minutes on average; residents of Oxford County have the longest, traveling 27 minutes each way.
So, not only do we labor at work, some labor as much as an hour each day just to get to work and then return home.
For most people, there is no work and no commuting today.
Today we honor the contributions of workers and celebrate the strength, prosperity and well-being laborers bring to this country.
So, enjoy the day (and the barbecue) and rest up for the remaining workweek. Our continued and collective labors are vital to this country.
The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.