This Monday, we celebrate Labor Day by abstaining from the one thing the holiday celebrates: working.
Labor Day is dedicated to the achievements and contributions of American workers. In 1894, President Grover Cleveland declared the first Monday in September a federal holiday. Today, Americans from coast to coast celebrate the day with parades, barbeques, fireworks and more.
How much do you know about work in America—both now in and in the past? Check out these fast facts about the American workforce to learn more.
1. Things are much better than they were in 1894.
- Back in the height of the Industrial Revolution, the average American toiled for 12 hours, seven days a week. Conditions were often very bad, and wages only covered life’s necessities. Child labor was also common. Reform movements and the rise of unions eventually led to major improvements for America’s workers.
2. The weekend wasn’t officially established until the 1930s. Ford Motor Company founder Henry Ford began closing his shops for two days in 1926—all without reducing workers’ pay. Other companies started to follow suit. But weekends weren’t official until President Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938. That law established the 40-hour, five-day work week we’re all so familiar with.
3. More Americans are starting home-based businesses. The United States Census Bureau reports that the number of home-based workers increased by 4.2 million people between 1997 and 2010. Advances in technology along with the recession are two reasons cited for the bump. (Plus, who wouldn’t want to go to work in their pajamas?)
4. If you’re a software developer, you have the best job in the country. Or at least you do if you believe U.S. News & World Report, which named the tech job to the top of the list. Computer systems analyst, dentist, nurse practitioner and pharmacist round out the top five.
5. Women continue to make major gains in the workplace. Today, women comprise 47 percent of all American workers. That number was only 38 percent in 1970. Today’s women are also more likely to attend college than men.
6. The healthcare sector continues to grow. Half of the 20 fastest growing occupations are in the healthcare sector.
If you hold down a job, make some time to relax and celebrate the important contributions you make to your workplace and to society.