Celebrating Labor Day 2024: Reflecting on the State of American Workers

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Labor Day

The American Labor movement started in the late 1800s. On Sep 5, 1882, American workers marched for the first time to get better wages, demand safe working conditions, and stop convict labor.

The march — from the New York City Hall to a park upstate — was energetic, cheerful, and resolute. Many of the workers risked their jobs to join the march. Since Labor Day wasn’t yet ‘Labor Day’ and not officially recognized as a holiday, workers who attended the march did so risking their livelihoods. Taking unplanned time off work could mean losing your pay or your job.

Does that sound familiar to you in 2024?

If so, that’s all you need to know to understand the state of American workers nearly 150 years later. Though time has passed and things have changed, the road ahead is more like a steep hill.

This is the backdrop in which economists are categorizing the American job market as ‘strong’, and the economic forecast for the U.S. as ‘optimistic’.

But how strong can a job market be in which millions of people are unemployed? And how optimistic an economy’s outlook is when its older employees postpone retirement and look for ways to continue participating in the job market?

Or maybe these very reasons maintain the strength of corporate America? Keeping the employment conditions so precarious that workers are just glad to have a job and don’t have the time, means, and mental energy to even ask for something better?

Is the future dark for American labor?

The present picture may not be a pretty one for America’s workforce but the future seems bright. America’s workforce is becoming more diverse than ever. It is also becoming more resilient, and outspoken. Gen-Z has entered the chat and it’s driving the most change.

It is a workforce that values a healthier work-life balance and isn’t afraid to take extreme action to get it. Remember, these people spearheaded the Great Resignation movement, and about 50% are hustlers. Employed at two or more places simultaneously, they are radicalized to look for employment that values them, not just something that pays their bills.

Reflecting on the state of American workers

Take a look at these facts as they relate to American workers in 2024. Areas we have covered include gender disparity in business leadership, racial disparity in wealth and stock ownership, black workers’ experience in the labor force, American workers’ perspective on taxes, Asian Americans living in poverty, and public opinion on the decline of union membership.

Labor Day 2024 Infographic

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1. Gender Disparities in Business Leadership

  • 10.6% of Fortune 500 chief executives and 30.4% of board members are women.
  • 55% of Americans believe there are too few women in top executive business positions, down from 59% in 2018.
  • 79% of those who say there are too few women believe gender parity in leadership roles is ideal.
  • 58% of Americans see women having to prove themselves more than men as a major obstacle.
  • 50% cite gender discrimination, while 48% mention family responsibilities.
  • 43% believe many businesses are not ready to hire women for top positions.
  • 40% see sexual harassment as creating an environment hindering women’s success.
  • 48% of Americans believe men will continue to hold more top executive positions, while 48% think it’s only a matter of time until gender parity is achieved.
  • 65% of women compared to 45% of men believe there are too few women in top business leadership positions.
  • 55% of women think men will continue to hold more top positions, while 54% of men believe it’s only a matter of time until gender parity is achieved.
  • 76% of Democrats compared to 33% of Republicans believe there are too few women in top business leadership positions.
  • 73% of Democrats and 42% of Republicans see women having to prove themselves more than men as a major obstacle.
  • 67% of Democrats and 30% of Republicans cite gender discrimination as a major obstacle.
  • 49% of both Republicans and Democrats see family responsibilities as a major reason for the lack of women in top leadership positions.

Source: pewresearch.org

2. Racial Disparities in Wealth and Stock Ownership

  • In 2022, 66% of White families, 39% of Black families, and 28% of Hispanic families owned stocks directly or indirectly.
  • The median value of total stock holdings among White families was $67,800, compared with $24,500 for Hispanic families and $16,500 for Black families.
  • The mean value of total stock holdings was $568,100 among White families, $97,400 for Hispanic families, and $80,400 for Black families.
  • In 2022, 58% of U.S. families had some form of exposure to the stock market, with a median value of $52,000 and a mean value of $489,500.
  • While 62% of White families have retirement accounts, only 35% of Black families and 28% of Hispanic families do.
  • The median value of retirement accounts held by Black families was $39,000, compared with $55,600 for Hispanic families and $100,000 for White families.
  • 35% of White Americans’ financial wealth is invested in stocks and mutual funds, versus 8% and 14% for Black and Hispanic Americans, respectively.
  • The median net worth of Asian American families in 2022 was $536,000, nearly twice that of White families ($285,000), and far ahead of Hispanic families ($61,600) and Black families ($44,900).

Source: pewresearch.org

3. Black Workers’ Experiences in the Labor Force

  • Black workers account for about 13% of all U.S. workers but make up significant shares in certain occupations, including postal service clerks (40.4%) and transit and intercity bus drivers (36.6%).
  • Among full-time wage and salary workers, the median weekly earnings for Black workers are $878, compared with $1,059 for all U.S. workers in the same age group.
  • In 2022, the unemployment rate for Black Americans was 6.3% for men and 6.0% for women, roughly double the rate for the U.S. overall.
  • About four-in-ten Black workers (41%) say they have experienced discrimination or been treated unfairly by an employer in hiring, pay, or promotions because of their race or ethnicity.
  • Black workers are the most likely to say that being Black makes it harder to succeed where they work, with 51% expressing this view.
  • Around eight-in-ten Black workers (78%) say that increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) at work is a good thing, but 28% say their employer pays too little attention to increasing DEI, the largest share among racial or ethnic groups.

Source: pewresearch.org

4. Americans’ Perspectives on Taxes

  • About six in ten U.S. adults feel that some corporations (61%) and some wealthy people (60%) don’t pay their fair share in taxes, with Democrats more likely to hold this view.
  • Over half of Americans (56%) feel they pay more than their fair share in taxes, up from 49% in 2021.
  • Approximately half of Americans (53%) are bothered a lot by the complexity of the federal tax system, with Republicans more likely to express frustration.
  • While the IRS is viewed unfavorably by 51% of Americans, it remains the largest source of government revenue, with individual income taxes expected to account for nearly half (49%) of total federal receipts in fiscal year 2024.
  • Human services, including education, health, Social Security, Medicare, income security, and veterans benefits, will make up 66% of federal government spending in fiscal 2024.
  • In fiscal 2022, 94% of all individual federal income tax returns were filed electronically, a significant increase from just 28% in fiscal 2000.

Source: pewresearch.org

5. Asian Americans Living in Poverty

  • More than 2.3 million Asian Americans, approximately one in ten, lived in poverty in 2022.
  • Poverty rates among Asian origin groups vary widely, with Burmese (19%) and Hmong Americans (17%) having among the highest rates, while Filipino (7%) and Indian Americans (6%) have among the lowest.
  • One-third of Asian Americans in poverty have a bachelor’s degree, compared to 14% of non-Asians in poverty.
  • Nearly six in ten Asian Americans in poverty are immigrants, with 44% of them being proficient in English.
  • Approximately one million Asians below the poverty line reside in 10 U.S. metropolitan areas, with New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco hosting over 500,000.
  • 79% of Asian adults in poverty experienced financial challenges in the past year, including being unable to save for emergencies (57%) and having trouble paying bills (42%).
  • 61% of Asian adults in poverty sought help from family or friends, while 49% sought help from local, state, or federal governments.
  • Roughly half (47%) of Asian Americans in poverty believe the American dream is out of reach for them.
  • Despite similar aspirations, Asian adults in poverty are less likely to own homes compared to those above the poverty line (40% vs. 71%).

Source: pewresearch.org

6. Public Opinion on Decline of Union Membership

  • 54% of U.S. adults believe the decline in union membership is bad for the country.
  • 59% say the decline negatively impacts working people.
  • 69% of Democrats see the decline as bad for the country, and 74% as bad for working people.
  • 40% of Republicans view it as bad for the country, while 43% see it as bad for working people.
  • 71% of Republicans over 65 see the decline as good for working people, compared to 40% of those under 40.
  • 66% of upper-income Republicans view the decline as beneficial, compared to 46% of lower-income Republicans.
  • 85% of liberal Democrats and 66% of conservative/moderate Democrats view the decline as bad for working people.
  • 30% of Democrats without a college degree see it as good for working people, compared to 17% of those with a degree.

Source: pewresearch.org

About The Author

Kelvin Stiles is a tech enthusiast and works as a marketing consultant at SurveyCrest – FREE online survey software and publishing tools for academic and business use. He is also an avid blogger and a comic book fanatic.