Going Into Labor


Labor Day 2010, a holiday set aside by unions in the late 19th century to honor the strength and integrity of the American workforce. How far we've come.

There are at least 70,000 Idahoans who would give anything to be working on Labor Day, or any day for that matter. The state labor department reports that there are many more untracked, due to the fact that they have exhausted all of their unemployment or have simply gave up looking for work. In 2008, when Bob Fick, Idaho's labor dept. spokesman, told Citydesk about something called the "exhaustion rate," it was quite new. Simply put, it's the number of Idahoans who have seen all their jobless benefits, plus extensions, dwindle away. Since then, it's more reality than anomaly.

Nationwide, more than 150 million Americans make up the labor force. The last census reported nearly 8 million were holding down more than one job. That number is expected to bump up dramatically when the 2010 count is completed.

So, what does the 2010 American workforce look like? Well, nearly 5 million work for local government, more than 2 million more in state government, and another 2 million in federal government (more than 600,000 at the Post Office alone). It's estimated that 1.3 million work full-time in armed services. Of a more standard variety, it's estimated that there are more than 7 million teachers in America, 2 million janitors and 1.9 million customer service representatives. And a couple dozen employees of Boise Weekly, working this Labor Day to get out this week's issue.