Since 1884, ten years before President Grover Cleveland signed the law designating “Labor Day” as the first Monday in September, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has been providing gold-standard data for and about American workers.
In honor of Labor Day, let’s take a look at some fast facts we’ve compiled that show the current picture of our labor market.
- Our monthly payroll survey shows that employment continues to expand—now 8.3 million jobs above the January 2008 peak.
- Employment growth has averaged 176,000 per month thus far in 2017, close to the average monthly gain in 2016 (+187,000).
Working or Looking for Work
- The civilian labor force participation rate—the share of the population working or looking for work—was 62.9 percent in August. The rate has generally been trending down since the early 2000s, although it has leveled off in recent years.
- The unemployment rate was 4.4 percent in August. The rate has shown little movement in recent months after declining earlier in the year. The last time the unemployment rate was lower was in 2000 and early 2001.
- In August, there were 1.7 million long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more). This represented 24.7 percent of the unemployed, down from a peak of 45.5 percent in April 2010 but still above the 16-percent share seen in late 2006 and 2007.
- Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate for teenagers was 13.6 percent in August, while the rates were 4.1 percent for adult men and 4.0 percent for adult women. The unemployment rate was 7.7 percent for Blacks or African Americans, 5.2 percent for Hispanics or Latinos, 4.0 percent for Asians, and 3.9 percent for Whites.
- On the last business day of June 2017, the number of nonfarm job openings was 6.2 million. This is the highest level of job openings recorded since the series began in December 2000. Over the year, job openings have increased by 671,000.
Pay and Benefits
- Average weekly earnings rose by 2.8 percent between July 2016 and July 2017; adjusted for inflation, real average weekly earnings are up 1.1 percent during this period.
- Paid leave benefits are available to a majority of private industry workers, where the access rates were 68 percent for sick leave, 76 percent for vacation, and 77 percent for holidays in March 2017.
- Nearly half (49 percent) of private industry workers participated in employer-sponsored medical care benefits in March 2017.
- Labor productivity in nonfarm businesses increased 0.9 percent in the second quarter of 2017. Although productivity is growing at a historically slow pace since the Great Recession, the manufacturing sector recently posted the strongest productivity growth in 21 quarters, growing 2.5 percent in the second quarter of 2017.
Safety and Health
- There were 4,836 fatal workplace injuries in 2015. That was the highest annual total since 2008 but still below the numbers of workplace deaths in the 1990s, when there were over 6,000 fatalities per year.
- The rate of nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses in the private sector was 3.0 cases per 100 full-time workers in 2015, down from 3.2 in 2014. That continues a pattern of declines that occurred annually for the last 13 years except for 2012. The rate is down from 9.2 cases per 100 full-time workers in 1976.
- Occupations that typically require a bachelor’s degree for entry made up 21 percent of employment. 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 11 of the 15 occupations projected to grow the fastest between 2014 and 2024, some postsecondary education is typically required for entry.
- The union membership rate—the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of unions—was 10.7 percent in 2016, down by 0.4 percentage point from 2015. In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent.
- Total compensation costs for union workers were $48.94 and for nonunion workers $31.58 in March 2017.
- Over the past four decades, major work stoppages (a strike or lockout) declined approximately 90 percent. From 1977 to 1986 there were 1,446 major work stoppages, while in 2007–16, there were 143.