Source: Pew Research Center
More than 150 million Americans are part of the U.S. workforce, and many of them (butnot all) will spend the Labor Day national holiday away from their desks, cash registers and workbenches. We can’t predict how workers will use their day off, but we do know a fair amount about who they are, what they do and the U.S. working environment in general.
1Over the past three decades, the share of American workers who are union members has fallen by about half. Union membership peaked in 1954 at nearly 35% of all U.S. wage and salary workers, but in 2015 the unionization rate was just 11.1%. However, according to theBureau of Labor Statistics the actual number of union members has risen in recent years, from 14.4 million in 2012 to 14.8 million last year.
The biggest decline in union representation from 2000 to 2015 was in construction and extraction occupations, from 23.8% to 17.2%. Unionization actually has risen, albeit slightly and from low bases, in a few occupational groups: In legal occupations, for instance, the unionization rate rose from 5.1% in 2000 to 5.6% last year.
2There is broad support for the right of workers to unionize across a range of occupations. Among six industry categories we asked about in spring 2015, about eight in-ten Americans (82%) said manufacturing and factory workers should have that right. Big majorities backed the rights of transit workers, police officers and public school teachers to do the same. About six-in-ten (62%) said fast-food workers should be able to unionize, while 35% opposed that. In general, though, Americans have mixed views about the long-term decline in unionization: About as many people said it’s been mostly bad for the country as said it’s been mostly good, though by 52% to 40% they said it’s been mostly bad for working people.
3Most Americans work in the service sector. In July, 102.6 million people (71% of all nonfarm payroll employees) worked in private service-providing industries, according to the most recent employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Among the major industrial sectors, the biggest was education and health services (22.7 million workers), followed by professional and business services (20.3 million) and retail trade (just under 16 million). Manufacturing employed 12.3 million Americans; about 22.2 million were government workers (nearly two-thirds of them at the local level).
4Nearly 15 million Americans are self-employed. APew Research Center report last year found that 14.6 million people, or about 10 percent of the active workforce in 2014, were self-employed. Those self-employed people had an additional 29.4 million people working for them; together, they accounted for 44 million jobs, or 30% of the national workforce.
But only about a quarter of self-employed people (3.4 million) had employees of their own, and those who did have workers didn’t have very many: Among self-employed people with employees, the median in 2014 was three and the average was 8.6.