Labor Day in the United States honors the achievements of American workers, who produce among the highest levels of goods and services in the world.

In 1894, following an act of Congress, Labor Day became a national holiday, observed by Americans on the first Monday in September. The holiday was born from an American labor movement. Today, it also represents the unofficial end of summer and gives many Americans a well-deserved day off from …

Hard work

Chart showing list of 10 most productive countries inside a cup (State Dept./Julia Maruszewski)

The U.S. is the world’s fifth-most-productive country, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. U.S. workers contribute $68.30 per hour toward the country’s economy. They also clock more hours on the job — 33.6 a week on average — than all four of the European countries that rank ahead of the U.S. in productivity.

“It’s easy to say that the United States is one of a handful of the most productive on the planet, in terms of the output workers can produce,” said Gary Burtless, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Who works

Today, jobs are up overall in the U.S. economy, and unemployment continues to slide.

Some 153.5 million people are employed, the highest number in at least 10 years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate in July dipped to 4.3 percent, a 16-year low.

U.S. employers see diversity of the workforce as a strength. Recent data show 56.7 percent of women participating in the labor market and 17.9 percent of people with a disability employed in 2016, the BLS reports.

The sectors experiencing the most growth in the number of jobs include health care and professional and business services.

New prospects

The U.S. manufacturing sector is on the upswing. The sector has added 100,000 jobs since November 2016.

And more hiring is in the offing.  A survey of manufacturers from the ManpowerGroup finds 17 percent of them expect to add more jobs in the coming weeks. ManpowerGroup is a multinational human resource consulting firm in Milwaukee.

President Donald J. Trump recently touted announcements from automakers Toyota and Mazda, as well as Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Foxconn, of plans to open new plants in the U.S.

“Foxconn joins a growing list of industry leaders who understand that America’s capabilities are limitless, and that America’s workers are unmatched, and that America’s most prosperous days are just ahead,” President Trump said from the White House.

Smalls are big

Small businesses help drive the U.S. jobs machine. Small businesses employed 57.9 million people — that’s nearly half of the private U.S. workforce — according to the Small Business Administration.

The regulatory hurdles to starting a business in the U.S. are relatively low compared to those in other countries, and access to most industries is open, experts say.

Pie chart showing percentage of small businesses in U.S., inside headphones (State Dept./Julia Maruszewski)Because market competition limits how much you can charge for a good or service, a talented and hard-working labor force is important.

“If you can produce more and better goods with less labor input, that is the root to becoming rich,” Burtless said.

This article was written by freelance writer Lenore T. Adkins, with graphics by Julia Maruszewski.