January 25th, 2015
from Bureau of Labor Statistics
In 2014, the union membership rate--the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of unions - was 11.1 percent, down 0.2 percentage point from 2013, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions, at 14.6 million, was little different from 2013. In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent, and there were 17.7 million union workers.
The data on union membership are collected as part of the Current Population Survey (CPS), a monthly sample survey of about 60,000 households that obtains information on employment and unemployment among the nation's civilian noninstitutional population age 16 and over.
Highlights from the 2014 data:
- --Public-sector workers had a union membership rate (35.7 percent), more than five times higher than that of private-sector workers (6.6 percent).
- --Workers in education, training, and library occupations and in protective service occupations had the highest unionization rate, at 35.3 percent for each occupation group.
- --Men had a higher union membership rate (11.7 percent) than women (10.5 percent) in 2014.
- --Black workers were more likely to be union members than were white, Asian, or Hispanic workers.
- --Median weekly earnings of nonunion workers ($763) were 79 percent of earnings for workers who were union members ($970). (The comparisons of earnings in this release are on a broad level and do not control for many factors that can be important in explaining earnings differences.)
- --Among states, New York continued to have the highest union membership rate (24.6 percent), and North Carolina again had the lowest rate (1.9 percent). (See table 5.) Industry and Occupation of Union Members
In 2014, 7.2 million employees in the public sector belonged to a union, compared with 7.4 million workers in the private sector. The union membership rate for public-sector workers (35.7 percent) was substantially higher than the rate for private-sector workers (6.6 percent). Within the public sector, the union membership rate was highest for local government (41.9 percent), which includes employees in heavily unionized occupations, such as teachers, police officers, and firefighters. In the private sector, industries with high unionization rates included utilities (22.3 percent), transportation and warehousing (19.6 percent), telecommunications (14.8 percent), and construction (13.9 percent). Low unionization rates occurred in agriculture and related industries (1.1 percent), finance (1.3 percent), professional and technical services (1.4 percent), and food services and drinking places (1.4 percent).
Among occupational groups, the highest unionization rates in 2014 were in education, training, and library occupations and protective service occupations (35.3 percent each). The lowest unionization rates were in farming, fishing, and forestry occupations (2.5 percent) and sales and related occupations (3.1 percent).
Selected Characteristics of Union Members
The union membership rate was higher for men (11.7 percent) than for women (10.5 percent) in 2014. The gap between their rates has narrowed considerably since 1983, when rates for men and women were 24.7 percent and 14.6 percent, respectively.
Among major race and ethnicity groups, black workers had a higher union membership rate in 2014 (13.2 percent) than workers who were white (10.8 percent), Asian (10.4 percent), or Hispanic (9.2 percent).
By age, the union membership rate was highest among workers ages 45 to 64--13.8 percent for those ages 45 to 54 and 14.1 percent for those ages 55 to 64.
The union membership rate was 12.3 percent for full-time workers, more than twice the rate for part-time workers, 5.8 percent.
In 2014, 16.2 million wage and salary workers were represented by a union. This group includes both union members (14.6 million) and workers who report no union affiliation but whose jobs are covered by a union contract (1.6 million).
In 2014, among full-time wage and salary workers, union members had median usual weekly earnings of $970, while those who were not union members had median weekly earnings of $763. In addition to coverage by a collective bargaining agreement, this earnings difference reflects a variety of influences, including variations in the distributions of union members and nonunion employees by occupation, industry, age, firm size, or geographic region.
Union Membership by State
In 2014, 30 states and the District of Columbia had union membership rates below that of the U.S. average, 11.1 percent, 19 states had rates above it, and 1 state had a rate equal to that of the nation. All states in the East South Central and West South Central divisions had union membership rates below the national average, and all states in the Middle Atlantic and Pacific divisions had rates above it. Union membership rates declined over the year in 27 states and the District of Columbia, rose in 18 states, and were unchanged in 5 states.
Nine states had union membership rates below 5.0 percent in 2014, with North Carolina having the lowest rate (1.9 percent). The next lowest rates were in South Carolina (2.2 percent) and Mississippi and Utah (3.7 percent each). Three states had union membership rates over 20.0 percent in 2014: New York (24.6 percent), Alaska (22.8 percent), and Hawaii (21.8 percent).
State union membership levels depend on both the employment level and the union membership rate. The largest numbers of union members lived in California (2.5 million) and New York (2.0 million). Over half of the 14.6 million union members in the U.S. lived in just seven states (California, 2.5 million; New York, 2.0 million; Illinois, 0.8 million; Pennsylvania, 0.7 million; and Michigan, New Jersey, and Ohio, 0.6 million each), though these states accounted for only about one-third of wage and salary employment nationally.