Saluting 310 million in workforce on Labor Day - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Saluting 310 million in workforce on Labor Day

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Posted: Sunday, September 5, 2010 11:00 am

Americans are an industrious people. They like to work. And they are unhappy when they can't -- as shown with the unrest over the current 9 percent-plus unemployment, a rate many countries would take in a second.

The habits of work are deeply ingrained in our national DNA, as this Labor Day reflection by the U.S. Census bureau shows.

In a nation of 310 million people, some 154.4 million of us 16 or older are in the workforce. There are 7.6 million who like to work so much -- or have to -- that they hold more than one job. Most of what the Census calls "moonlighters" have a second part-time job. But there are 284,000 people out there who work two full-time jobs. We salute them, but we're not inclined to emulate them.

There are 10.1 million who work for that most demanding of bosses -- themselves. They are the nation's self-employed. And for all the talk of telecommuting, only 5.9 million Americans work at home.

While the 40-hour work week is pretty much standard, over a quarter -- 27 percent -- work longer and 7 percent work 60 or more hours a week.

For their jobs, Americans receive a median annual income of $46,367 for men and $35,745 for women. Of the nation's larger counties, Santa Clara, Calif., has the highest average weekly wage, $1,506.

Eighty-three percent get health insurance at work and than 78 percent get paid vacations. The median number of years workers stay with one employer is 4.1, but 10 percent of workers have been with their employer for 20 or more years.

Although Labor Day is a gift to us from the labor movement, credit generally goes to the Carpenters and Joiners' Union for a workers' parade in New York City in 1882. There are now only 16.1 million union members, about 12 percent of wage and salary members. The rates of unionized workers are highest in Alaska, Hawaii and New York, lowest in North Carolina at around 3 percent.

Despite the long-running campaign to get Americans out of their cars, 76 percent of us drive to work alone. Eleven percent car pool; only 5 percent take public transportation. The average commute is just shy of 26 minutes. There are 3.5 million workers, either so dedicated to where they work and where they live, that they have a commute of 90 minutes or more.

And 13 percent of all commuters, 17.7 million hardy souls, leave for work between midnight and 5:59 a.m. If you're leaving for work at that hour on Tuesday, do try to be quiet about it.

And in the meantime, have a happy and restful Labor Day.

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