Union membership drops

The trendline is clear. The percentage of wage-earners who belong to unions is dropping. The overall rate in 2016 was 10.7%, down 0.4 points from 2015. Compare that with the 20.1% rate in 1983.

Public-sector workers had a union membership rate (34.4%) more than five times higher than that of private-sector workers (6.4%).

  • Federal workers: 27.4%, up from 27.3%.
  • State workers: 29.6%, down from 30.2%.
  • Local government workers: 40.3%, down from 41.3%.

Workers in education, training, and library occupations and in protective service occupations had the highest unionization rates (34.6% and 34.5%, respectively).

Men have a slightly higher union membership rate (11.2%) than women (10.2%).

Black workers were more likely to be union members (13.0%) than were White, Asian, or Hispanic workers.

Note that the percentage of workers who are covered by union contracts will be higher because not all of those individuals actually belong to a union. For example, the overall rate of workers covered by a union contract is 12.0%, down from 12.3% the prior year.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics [News Release]


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