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Posted at 6:30 AM ET, 09/ 7/2009

A Lesson on Labor Day

By Valerie Strauss

Labor Day is the perfect day to explain to kids complaining about going back to school just how much worse things could be for them.

In fact, they once were: Kids were forced into back-breaking jobs day and night in mines, textiles, glass factories, canneries and other places where children don't belong. Labor activitists eventually ended child labor--and won better working conditions for adult workers, including the eight-hour work day.

Today, though, few schools teach in depth about the labor movement and I doubt many kids know what the holiday is intended to honor. To help you use this holiday as a learning experience for your children--which is exactly what The Answer Sheet knew you were planning to do today--here are some facts and figures kindly assembled by the U.S. Census Bureau and other government agencies.

It’s your government at work.

Celebrated--On the first Monday in September, Labor Day honors the social and economic contributions that the American worker has made to the growth and health of the country. It was first celebrated in this country in the 1880s--at a time when people commonly worked 12-hour days. The first Labor Day rally, in 1882, was in support of an eight-hour workday.

155.1 million:
Number of people 16 and older in the nation’s labor force in May 2009.

7.7 million:
Number of workers who hold down more than one job. So-called moonlighters comprise 5 percent of the working population.

Annual median earnings for full-time, year-round worker in 2007:

17 million--Number of commuters who leave for work between midnight and 5:59 a.m. These early birds represent 13 percent of all commuters.

76 percent of workers drive alone to work, 10 percent car pool, and 5 percent take public transportation (excluding taxicabs).

There are in the United States:
7.2 million teachers (2.9 million teach at the elementary and middle school level. The remainder includes those teaching at the postsecondary, secondary, and preschool and kindergarten levels.)
2.8 million registered nurses
2.1 million janitors and building
1 million computer software engineers
773,000 hairdressers, hairstylists and cosmetologists
293,000 firefighters
186,000 musicians, singers and related workers
137,000 aerospace engineers

$63,640--Average annual salary of public school teachers in California as of the 2006-2007 school year — the highest of any state.
$35,378--Teachers in South Dakota received the lowest pay.
$50,758--The national average was $50,758.
$16.56--Average hourly wage for the nation’s school bus drivers in 2007-08.
$14.19--Average hourly wage for school custodians.
$11.60--Average hourly wage for cafeteria workers.

*Statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau

By Valerie Strauss  | September 7, 2009; 6:30 AM ET
Categories:  Civics Education  | Tags:  American history, Labor Day, workers  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: 7 Things I Learned This Week
Next: CHECKING IT OUT: What's a ‘highly skilled’ teacher in D.C.?


Again, a wonderful post. Your blog has quickly become the first thing I read every morning.

Posted by: bethesda3 | September 7, 2009 8:31 AM | Report abuse

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