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How many workers get paid holidays off?

Good Question: How many workers get paid holidays off?
Good Question: How many workers get paid holidays off? 02:36

MINNEAPOLIS – For millions of Americans, Tuesday was their first day back at work after a long weekend. But we know not everyone has that same privilege. 

So, how many workers in the U.S. get paid holidays off? And on which holiday does it happen most often?

MSP Airport was bustling last Friday ahead of a three-day weekend.

"I'm traveling back to Baltimore, I'm from there," said Charles Franklin who gets Memorial Day off from work.

"I'm headed to Indianapolis," added Jeff Man, who too will get an extended weekend.

Both were grateful for the extra time off.

"It kind of gives that reset period. It's great for like company culture," said Franklin.

"It's been a way of life my whole life. I never really think about it that much," said Man.

The ability to enjoy extra time with family while honoring service members who died in battle is the overarching story of Memorial Day weekend. The reality, however, is tens of millions of Americans don't have that opportunity, no matter the holiday.

What percentage of Americans do not get paid holidays off? Many we talked with guessed anywhere from 20-35%, and they're not far off.

A 2018 survey by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found 23% of civilian workers in America don't get any paid holidays. "Civilian" is defined as state and local government workers, as well as those in the private sector. 

Federal government, military, agriculture workers, and self-employed workers are not included. Of the 77% percent who do get paid holidays, they average having about eight per year.  


That doesn't guarantee having the day off. Many people will still go to work on a holiday, however they will be compensated with higher pay or be allowed to use the holiday off in the future.

Which holiday do people most often get off from work? Christmas was the top guess at MSP Airport, but that comes in second place right behind Thanksgiving.

For civilian workers who get paid holidays, 97% of them get Thanksgiving.

For Independence Day, it's 92%, followed by Labor Day at 91%, then New Year's Day and Memorial Day both at 90%.

A steep drop occurs from there. Only 43% of civilian workers who get paid holidays get Black Friday as a paid holiday, followed by Martin Luther King Jr. Day at 32% and Christmas Eve at 28%.

"It definitely varies depending on who you work for," said Man.

The biggest discrepancy is whether you work for the government. For civilian workers who get paid holidays, 70% of state and local government workers will get Veterans Day, but in the private sector it's only 11%.

The gap is also noticeable for MLK Day with 85% of state and local government workers earning the holiday, but only 24% of eligible workers in the private sector.

"I started working for the government at a young age where we got the 10 federal holidays," said Man.

Ten paid holidays might be a tall ask countrywide, but even just a few extra days off for some makes a big difference.

"It's good for company morale. It's good for productivity, too," said Franklin.

"You gotta have time to unwind and regroup, very important," added another traveler.

Every four years, federal workers in Washington, D.C. get an eleventh paid holiday for Inauguration Day.

See a more detailed breakdown on what categories of workers get paid holidays.

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