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Economic News Release
CPS CPS Program Links

Union Members Summary

For release 10:00 a.m. (EST) Friday, January 18, 2019				USDL-19-0079

Technical information: (202) 691-6378 * *
Media contact: 	       (202) 691-5902 *

			  UNION MEMBERS -- 2018

The union membership rate--the percent of wage and salary workers who were
members of unions--was 10.5 percent in 2018, down by 0.2 percentage point
from 2017, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The number
of wage and salary workers belonging to unions, at 14.7 million in 2018,
was little changed from 2017. 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 in this news release. 
Highlights from the 2018 data: 

  --The union membership rate of public-sector workers (33.9 percent)
    continued to be more than five times higher than that of private-sector
    workers (6.4 percent). (See table 3.) 

  --The highest unionization rates were among workers in protective service
    occupations (33.9 percent) and in education, training, and library
    occupations (33.8 percent). (See table 3.) 
  --Men continued to have a higher union membership rate (11.1 percent)
    than women (9.9 percent). (See table 1.) 
  --Black workers remained more likely to be union members than White,
    Asian, or Hispanic workers. (See table 1.) 
  --Nonunion workers had median weekly earnings that were 82 percent
    of earnings for workers who were union members ($860 versus $1,051).
    (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.) (See table 2.) 
  --Among states, Hawaii and New York had the highest union membership
    rates (23.1 percent and 22.3 percent, respectively), while North
    Carolina and South Carolina had the lowest (2.7 percent each).
    (See table 5.) 

Industry and Occupation of Union Members 
In 2018, 7.2 million employees in the public sector belonged to a union,
compared with 7.6 million workers in the private sector. Union membership
rates for both public-sector and private-sector workers edged down in 2018.
The unionization rate in the private sector (6.4 percent) remained
substantially below that for public-sector workers (33.9 percent). Within
the public sector, the union membership rate was highest in local government
(40.3 percent), which employs many workers in heavily unionized occupations,
such as police officers, firefighters, and teachers. Private-sector industries
with high unionization rates included utilities (20.1 percent), transportation
and warehousing (16.7 percent), and telecommunications (15.4 percent). Low
unionization rates occurred in finance (1.3 percent), food services and
drinking places (1.3 percent), and professional and technical services 
(1.5 percent). (See table 3.) 
Among occupational groups, the highest unionization rates in 2018 were in
protective service occupations (33.9 percent) and in education, training,
and library occupations (33.8 percent). Unionization rates were lowest in
farming, fishing, and forestry occupations (2.4 percent); sales and related
occupations (3.3 percent); computer and mathematical occupations (3.7 percent);
and in food preparation and serving related occupations (3.9 percent).  
Selected Characteristics of Union Members 
In 2018, the union membership rate continued to be higher for men (11.1 percent)
than for women (9.9 percent). (See table 1.) 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,
Among major race and ethnicity groups, Black workers continued to have a higher 
union membership rate in 2018 (12.5 percent) than workers who were White
(10.4 percent), Asian (8.4 percent), or Hispanic (9.1 percent). 
By age, union membership rates continued to be highest among workers ages
45 to 64. In 2018, 12.8 percent of workers ages 45 to 54 and 13.3 percent
of those ages 55 to 64 were union members.  
In 2018, the union membership rate for full-time workers (11.6 percent) was
about twice the rate for part-time workers (5.4 percent). 
Union Representation 
In 2018, 16.4 million wage and salary workers were represented by a union.
This group includes both union members (14.7 million) and workers who
report no union affiliation but whose jobs are covered by a union contract
(1.6 million). (See table 1.) 
Among full-time wage and salary workers, union members had median usual
weekly earnings of $1,051 in 2018, while those who were not union members
had median weekly earnings of $860. 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. 
(See tables 2 and 4.) 
Union Membership by State 
In 2018, 29 states and the District of Columbia had union membership rates
below that of the U.S. average, 10.5 percent, while 20 states had rates above
it and 1 state had the same rate. All states in both the East South Central
and West South Central divisions had union membership rates below the national
average, while all states in both the Middle Atlantic and Pacific divisions
had rates above it. 

Eight states had union membership rates below 5.0 percent in 2018. North
Carolina and South Carolina had the lowest rate (2.7 percent each). The next
lowest rates were in Utah (4.1 percent) and Texas and Virginia (4.3 percent
each). Two states had union membership rates over 20.0 percent in 2018: Hawaii
(23.1 percent) and New York (22.3 percent). (See table 5.) 
The largest numbers of union members lived in California (2.4 million) and
New York (1.9 million). Over half of the 14.7 million union members in the
U.S. lived in just seven states (California, 2.4 million; New York, 1.9 million;
Illinois, 0.8 million; Pennsylvania, 0.7 million; and Michigan, Ohio, and
Washington, 0.6 million each), though these states accounted for only about
one-third of wage and salary employment nationally. 

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Last Modified Date: January 18, 2019