Fast Facts about our Workforce this Labor Day

Factory Workers circa 1945/Photo Courtesy of University of Washington

As you’re gathering your friends and family around for one last summer barbecue this Labor Day weekend, don’t forget to recognize the day as a time to celebrate workers for their contributions to the strength, well-being, and prosperity of our nation. In honor of Labor Day, here are some fast facts on the American workforce, minimum wage workers, and the unemployed.

America’s Workforce:

  • More than 156 million people make up the U.S. labor force, including people who are working and those who are unemployed.
  • More than 146 million workers aged 16 and up are currently employed. In 2013, the labor force was 53 percent men, and 47 percent women.
  • One in five workers is 55 or older.
  • Americans made a median hourly wage of $16.87 as of May 2013.  
  • Seventy-two percent of workers had access to employer-provided healthcare, 65 percent had paid sick leave, and 12 percent had paid family leave in 2013.

Minimum Wage Workers:

  • There are nearly 28 million minimum wage workers in the U.S., 88 percent of whom are over the age of 20 and more than a quarter of whom are working parents.
  • The federal minimum wage is $7.25. Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 would increase these 28 million workers’ wages by $35 billion over the next two years.
  • Minimum wage is not a living wage: fast food industry workers alone receive about $7 billion per year in government assistance just to get by.

Unemployment Insurance:

  • Employers pay into the unemployment insurance program for nearly all workers, which then provides benefits should you become unemployed through no fault of your own.
  • The share of long-term unemployed workers (those unemployed for six months or more) peaked at nearly 45 percent of all unemployed workers in 2010, the highest rate it has ever been. Today, more than 3.1 million workers – about a third of all the unemployed – have been unemployed for six months or more.
  • Studies show that spending on UI benefits provides one of the greatest returns on investment among policies designed to boost the economy and create jobs. For every $1 spent on UI, nearly $2 is put back in local economies.

To learn more about the minimum wage, click here. To read more about unemployment insurance, click here or check out our factsheet.

Happy Labor Day!