Union membership rate slides more

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS); CP staff

The level of wage and salary workers who were members of unions, hence the union membership rate, was 10.7 percent in 2016, down 0.4 percent from 2015. BLS Current Population Survey findings show the number of unionized wage and salary workers declined 240,000 last year, to 14.6 million. BLS cites among other 2016 data highlights:

  • Public-sector workers had a union membership rate (34.4 percent) more than five times higher than that of private-sector workers (6.4 percent). Workers in education, training, and library occupations and in protective service occupations had the highest unionization rates (34.6 percent and 34.5 percent, respectively).
  • Men continued to have a slightly higher union membership rate (11.2 percent) than women (10.2 percent), and Black workers are more likely to be union members than were White, Asian, or Hispanic workers.
  • Among states, New York and South Carolina continued to have the highest and lowest union membership rates, respectively, 23.6 percent and 1.6 percent. Over half of the 14.6 million union members in the U.S. live in seven states (California, 2.6 million; New York, 1.9 million; Illinois, 800,000; Pennsylvania, 700,000; and Michigan, New Jersey, and Ohio, 600,000), accounting for only about one-third of wage and salary employment nationally. Nine states had union membership rates below 5.0 percent in 2016, with North Carolina (3.0 percent), Arkansas (3.9 percent), and Georgia (3.9 percent) joining South Carolina.
  • In 2016, 7.1 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 (34.4 percent) was substantially higher than the rate for private-sector workers (6.4 percent).