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How Many Working Days Are in a Calendar Year?

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Quick Answer

The number of working days per calendar year varies based on the year and what day of the week public holidays fall on. The number of annual work days ranges from 260 to 262.

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In 1981, the General Accounting Office performed a study on American work days. It evaluated the number of working days each year over a 28-year period, which is the length of time it takes for a calendar to repeat itself. Most years (17 out of 28) had 261 working days. Seven years had 260 work days, and four had 262 work days. The study also found that there are approximately 2,087 standard working hours in a year.

Federal Holidays
The United States recognizes 10 federal holidays. New Year's Day and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day are January holidays. Washington's Birthday is celebrated in February. Memorial Day is a May holiday, and Independence Day falls on July 4. Labor Day is recognized in September, and Columbus Day festivities take place in October. Thanksgiving Day and Veterans Day are federal holidays in November, while Christmas is celebrated in December. Federal offices close for all recognized federal holidays, and many private businesses do, too. If a holiday falls on a weekend, it is typically observed on the following or preceding weekday. If Christmas arrives on a Saturday, for example, businesses usually close on the Friday before.

Non-Federal Holidays
In addition to this core group of federal holidays, other holidays and events take place that might shorten the number of working days each year. During an election year, for example, businesses in Washington, D.C., close on Inauguration Day. Other annual holidays that take place in the United States are Flag Day, Father's Day, Mother's Day, Halloween and Earth Day. These holidays are not federally recognized, and government offices do not close to celebrate them. The incumbent president, however, can observe holidays with national significance, such as Flag Day, with a Presidential proclamation. Other holidays are honored by religions and ethnic groups around the nation. Easter is a Christian holiday, Ramadan is celebrated by Muslims, Buddhists celebrate the Day of Vesak, Jews recognize the High Holy Days and Diwali is a Hindu holiday. Religious holidays are not federal holidays either, but employers have the discretion of letting their employees take time off to celebrate culturally significant days.

Holiday Pay
Just as companies have the discretion of allowing their employees to take certain days off, they are also given the choice of whether or not to compensate them for time not worked due to holidays. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) states that employees are only legally entitled to pay for hours worked during the year. Therefore, employers are not required to pay for time that employees do not work during holidays and vacations. Holiday payment is handled on a per-company basis, with employers setting their own regulations about holiday pay. There is an exception to this rule for federal employees who work in a government job where the Davis-Bacon and Related Acts apply. These standards mandate compensation for holiday and vacation time. The level of compensation is based on an employee's classification.

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