The first governmental recognition came through municipal ordinances passed in 1885 and 1886. From these, a movement developed to secure state legislation. The first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon on February 21, 1887. During 1887, four more states – Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York – created the Labor Day holiday by legislative enactment. By the end of the decade Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania had followed suit. By 1894, 23 more states had adopted the holiday, and on June 28, 1894, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.
The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The Central Labor Union held its second Labor Day holiday just a year later, on September 5, 1883.
By 1894, 23 more states had adopted the holiday, and on June 28, 1894, President Grover Cleveland signed a law making the first Monday in September of each year a national holiday.
Labor Day 2019 Fast Facts
- Employment continues to expand—now 13.0 million jobs above the January 2008 peak reached as the 2007–09 recession began.
- Employment growth has averaged 165,000 per month so far in 2019. That compares with an average monthly gain of 223,000 jobs in 2018.
Working or Looking for Work
- The civilian labor force participation rate—the share of the population working or looking for work—was 63.0 percent in July 2019. The rate had trended down from the 2000s through the early 2010s, but it has remained fairly steady since 2014.
- The unemployment rate was 3.7 percent in July. In April and May, the rate hit its lowest point, 3.6 percent, since 1969.
- In July, there were 1.2 million long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more). This represented 19.2 percent of the unemployed, down from a peak of 45.5 percent in April 2010 but still above the 16-percent share in late 2006.
- Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate for teenagers was 12.8 percent in July 2019, while the rates were 3.4 percent for both adult women and adult men. The unemployment rate was 6.0 percent for Blacks or African Americans, 4.5 percent for Hispanics or Latinos, 2.8 percent for Asians, and 3.3 percent for Whites.
- On the last business day of June 2019, the number of nonfarm job openings was 7.3 million. That was just below the 7.6 million job openings in late 2018 and early 2019, which was the highest level recorded since the series began in December 2000.
- There were 3.4 million quits in June 2019. That’s near the historic high of 3.5 million quits in several months earlier in 2019.
- The ratio of unemployed people per job opening was 0.8 on the last business day in June 2019. This ratio has been below 1.0 each month since March 2018.
Pay and Benefits
- Average weekly earnings rose by 2.6 percent from July 2018 to July 2019. After adjusting for inflation in consumer prices, real average weekly earnings were up 0.8 percent during this period.
- Civilian compensation (wage and benefit) costs increased 2.7 percent in June 2019 from a year earlier. After adjusting for inflation, real compensation costs rose 1.1 percent over the year.
- Paid leave benefits are available to most private industry workers. The access rates in March 2018 were 71 percent for sick leave, 77 percent for vacation, and 78 percent for holidays.
- About 91 percent of civilian workers with access to paid holidays receive Labor Day as a paid holiday.
- In March 2018, civilian workers with employer-provided medical plans paid 20 percent of the cost of medical care premiums for single coverage and 32 percent for family coverage.
- Labor productivity—output per hour worked—in the U.S. nonfarm business sector grew 1.8 percent from the second quarter of 2018 to the second quarter of 2019.
- Some industries had much faster growth in 2018, including electronic shopping and mail-order houses (10.6 percent) and wireless telecommunications carriers (10.1 percent).
- Multifactor productivity in the private nonfarm business sector rose 1.0 percent in 2018. That growth is 0.2 percentage point higher than the average annual rate of 0.8 percent from 1987 to 2018.
Safety and Health
- In 2017, there were 5,147 fatal workplace injuries. While this represents a 1-percent decrease from 2016, the 2017 total was the second highest count of fatal work injuries since 2008. It was, however, below the numbers of workplace deaths in the 1990s, when over 6,000 fatalities occurred per year.
- There were about 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses reported in 2017 by private industry employers. That was nearly 45,800 fewer cases than a year earlier. This resulted in an incidence rate of 2.8 cases per 100 full-time workers in 2017. The rate is down from 9.2 cases per 100 full-time workers in 1976.
- In 2018, 8.6 percent of all workers were exposed to hazardous contaminants. The use of personal protective equipment was required for 7.3 percent of workers.
- The union membership rate—the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of unions—was 10.5 percent in 2018, down by 0.2 percentage point from 2017. In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent.
- Total employer compensation costs for private-industry union workers were $47.27 and for nonunion workers $33.26 per employee hour worked in March 2019. The cost of benefits accounted for 41.0 percent of total compensation (or $19.37) for union workers and 28.4 percent (or $9.46) for nonunion workers.
- In the first 7 months of 2019, there have been 307,500 workers involved in major work stoppages that began this year. (Major work stoppages are strikes or lockouts that involve 1,000 or more workers and last one full shift or longer.) For all of 2018, there were 485,200 workers involved in major work stoppages, the largest number since 1986, when about 533,100 workers were involved.
- There have been 15 work stoppages beginning in 2019. For all of 2018, 20 work stoppages began during the year.
- Occupations that typically require a bachelor’s degree for entry made up 22 percent of employment in 2018. This educational category includes registered nurses, teachers at the kindergarten through secondary levels, and many management, business and financial operations, computer, and engineering occupations.
- For 18 of the 30 occupations projected to grow the fastest between 2016 and 2026, some postsecondary education is typically required for entry.
Labor Day Fast Facts courtesy U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics