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posted on 30 January 2016

Union Membership Levels Unchanged In 2015

from the Bureau of Labor Statistics

The union membership rate--the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of unions--was 11.1 percent in 2015, unchanged from 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions, at 14.8 million in 2015, was little different from 2014. 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 union membership rate--the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of unions--was 11.1 percent in 2015, unchanged from 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions, at 14.8 million in 2015, was little different from 2014. 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 eligible households that obtains information on employment and unemployment among the nation's civilian noninstitutional population age 16 and over. For more information, see the Technical Note.

Highlights from the 2015 data:

• Public-sector workers had a union membership rate (35.2 percent) more than five times higher than that of private-sector workers (6.7 percent).

• Workers in protective service occupations and in education, training, and library occupations had the highest unionization rates (36.3 percent and 35.5 percent, respectively).

• Men continued to have a slightly higher union membership rate (11.5 percent) than women (10.6 percent).

• Black workers were more likely to be union members than were White, Asian, or Hispanic workers.

• Median weekly earnings of nonunion workers ($776) were 79 percent of earnings for workers who were union members ($980). (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 (24.7 percent), while South Carolina had the lowest (2.1 percent).

Industry and Occupation of Union Members

In 2015, 7.2 million employees in the public sector belonged to a union, compared with 7.6 million workers in the private sector. The union membership rate for public-sector workers (35.2 percent) was substantially higher than the rate for private-sector workers (6.7 percent). Within the public sector, the union membership rate was highest for local government (41.3 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 (21.4 percent), transportation and warehousing (18.9 percent), educational services (13.7 percent), telecommunications (13.3 percent), and construction (13.2 percent). Low unionization rates occurred in agriculture and related industries (1.2 percent), finance (1.3 percent), food services and drinking places (1.5 percent), and professional and technical services (1.7 percent).

Among occupational groups, the highest unionization rates in 2015 were in protective service occupations (36.3 percent) and in education, training, and library occupations (35.5 percent). The lowest unionization rates were in farming, fishing, and forestry occupations (1.9 percent) and in sales and related occupations (3.3 percent).

Selected Characteristics of Union Members

In 2015, the union membership rate continued to be slightly higher for men (11.5 percent) than for women (10.6 percent). The gap between their rates has narrowed considerably since 1983 (the earliest year for which comparable data are available), when rates for men and women were 24.7 percent and 14.6 percent, respectively.

Among major race and ethnicity groups, Black workers continued to have a higher union membership rate in 2015 (13.6 percent) than workers who were White (10.8 percent), Asian (9.8 percent), or Hispanic (9.4 percent).

By age, union membership rates continued to be highest among workers ages 45 to 64. In 2015, 13.6 percent of workers ages 45 to 54 and 14.3 percent of those ages 55 to 64 were union members.

The union membership rate was 12.2 percent for full-time workers, more than twice the rate for part-time workers, 5.9 percent.

Union Representation

In 2015, 16.4 million wage and salary workers were represented by a union. This group includes both union members (14.8 million) and workers who report no union affiliation but whose jobs are covered by a union contract (1.6 million).

Earnings

Among full-time wage and salary workers, union members had median usual weekly earnings of $980 in 2015, while those who were not union members had median weekly earnings of $776. 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 2015, 30 states and the District of Columbia had union membership rates below that of the U.S. average, 11.1 percent, and 20 states had rates above it. 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 increased over the year in 24 states and the District of Columbia, declined in 23 states, and were unchanged in 3 states.

Five states had union membership rates below 5.0 percent in 2015: South Carolina (2.1 percent), North Carolina (3.0 percent), Utah (3.9 percent), Georgia (4.0 percent), and Texas (4.5 percent). Two states had union membership rates over 20.0 percent in 2015: New York (24.7 percent) and Hawaii (20.4 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). Roughly half of the 14.8 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, Ohio, and New Jersey, 0.6 million each), though these states accounted for only about one-third of wage and salary employment nationally.The data on union membership are collected as part of the Current Population Survey (CPS), a monthly sample survey of about 60,000 eligible households that obtains information on employment and unemployment among the nation's civilian noninstitutional population age 16 and over.

[source document with tables]

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