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Historical Employment Research: Labor Day and Paid Time Off

Labor Day often sees a flurry of articles on the history of the holiday and its relationship to labor unions, but fewer on the history of work holidays themselves. Before WWII, paid vacation and holiday time were generally a perk only for white-collar workers; by 1944, 85% of unionized employees earned some kind of paid time off. (Today, around 3 in 4 workers get paid holidays and about 70% of all U.S. employees get paid time off for Labor Day.)

A 1948 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics in FRASER covers the development of specific union agreements on paid time off and holiday work for hourly and manual-labor employees, including companies that granted "as many as 20" paid holidays. 

Read the full report here. For more history of employee benefits from our digital library of economic history, explore