Explore 100 years of labor force change, from farmers to retail clerks

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Posted: Saturday, August 31, 2013 12:00 am

Labor Day was first observed Sept. 5, 1882, when “10,000 workers assembled in New York city for a parade.” The event inspired similar events around the nation and “by 1894 more then half the states were observing a 'workingmen's holiday,'” according to the U.S. Census.

Those gatherings must have made an impression on lawmakers because that same year Congress passed Labor Day legislation and President Grover Cleveland signed it into law, making the first Monday in September Labor Day, according to the Census.

Occupations and the make-up of the nation's workforce have changed in the last 100-plus years.

In 1910, the U.S. population stood at more than 92 million with nearly 12 million people engaged in paid or unpaid farm-related jobs, making farming and ranching the most common occupation, according to the Census.

In 1910 the workforce totaled about 36.2 million people--28.7 million men and 7.5 million women.

Not all data from 1910 can be compared to 2012 numbers, but here's a sampling of recent data: The U.S. population was about 312 million in 2012, and the number of people over the age of 16 in the labor force was about 155 million -- 83 million men and 72 million women.

The number of farmers, ranchers and agricultural managers -- 1.2 million. Occupations with the largest number of employees in descending order were retail salespeople, 4.3 million; cashiers, 3.3 million; food preparation and service, 2.9 million; office clerks, 2.8 million; registered nurses, 2.6 million and waiters and waitresses, 2.3 million.

Professions with the least number of employees in 2012? Prosthodontists -- the Census counted just 310 of the doctors in the specialized branch of aesthetic dentistry, followed by 770 wood patternmakers and 770 fabric menders and 1,030 industrial-organizational psychologists.

Labor Day also includes a break from the commute to work, which now averages about 25.5 minutes one way. Happy holiday.

Click here to view more employment data.

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