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We’ve reached Labor Day

Labor Day traditionally has been a day to remember and a day to relax.

There is plenty to remember — the day itself was created to recognize the contribution workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Exactly who gets credit for founding Labor Day remains up in the air, but we do know that it was first celebrated on Sept. 5, 1882. The first Monday in September became the national holiday in 1894, thanks to legislation signed into law by President Grover Cleveland.

It remains a day to celebrate the work done by women and men that keeps our country going.

Just how we work varies from state to state, as we are reminded in a survey released Monday by WalletHub.

According to the Washington, D.C.-based personal-finance website, Americans worked an average of 1,739 hours in 2019. That’s more than 390 hours more than the Germans worked and 360 fewer than the average hours worked by Mexicans, according to the World Economic Forum. Americans, the report added, only use about 54 percent of the vacation time they earn each year. Nine percent take no time off at all, and 768 million vacation days were unused in 2018, according to the travel site Priceline.

When WalletHub was done crunching its metrics, which included many factors, including average workweek hours, employment rates, idle youth and average commute time, it was determined that North Dakota was the hardest-working state.

Our Tri-State Area did not fare very well. Pennsylvania came in at 39th, and Ohio was rated 46th. And West Virginia? Well the Mountain State finished No. 50.

Breaking it down a little more, Alaska had the highest average workweek hours; North Dakota had the highest employment and lowest idle youth rates; Utah and Oregon finished tied for the highest annual volunteer hours per resident; and Wyoming and Montana were tied for the lowest average leisure time spent per day.

Like many days, there’s also a dual reason for celebrating. Labor Day has always stood as the unofficial end of the summer season, the day that has marked the opening of schools and closing of swimming pools — and one of the last opportunities to enjoy summer.

All of that is a little different this year, thanks in part to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has thrown the work force for a loop and made a big difference in how we interact with one another — which will make the annual cookout with friends and family look and feel different this year.

In fact, WalletHub reports that 77 percent of Americans do not trust others to be responsible with social distancing during the Labor Day weekend.

“Adults under 30 years old are more than twice as likely as those aged 59-plus to trust that others will practice social distancing,” explained Jill Gonzalez, a WalletHub analyst. “This makes sense, considering the fact that the elderly are more vulnerable to serious symptoms from COVID-19 and thus must practice an especially high level of caution.”

The numbers also show that one in three Americans are concerned about job security. Half of Americans think they have worked harder since the pandemic began, and 39 percent think management has taken advantage of them.

And, while 75 percent of Americans said they don’t plan to travel during the weekend, 40 percent said they planned to go shopping — and 28 percent said nothing would make them feel comfortable enough to go shopping.

Money is, of course, an issue — 74 percent think Congress should continue to give extra unemployment benefits until the pandemic has ended, and 52 percent of Americans say they have spent less money this summer than they spent last summer.

So, enjoy the weekend. If you are fortunate to have time off, remember the reason there is a holiday. And if you have to work, remember that your efforts are appreciated and are vital to everyone else in society.

(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)

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