January 25, 2011
In 2010, the union membership rate—the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of a union—was 11.9 percent, down from 12.3 percent a year earlier; the number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions declined by 612,000 to 14.7 million. 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.
In 2010, 7.6 million public sector employees belonged to a union, compared with 7.1 million union workers in the private sector. The union membership rate for public sector workers (36.2 percent) was substantially higher than the rate for private sector workers (6.9 percent).
Within the public sector, local government workers had the highest union membership rate (4.7 million members, or a rate of 42.3 percent). This group includes workers in heavily unionized occupations, such as teachers, police officers, and fire fighters.
Private sector industries with high unionization rates included transportation and utilities (1.1 million members, or a rate of 21.8 percent), telecommunications (167,000 members, or a rate of 15.8 percent), and construction (801,000 members, or a rate of 13.1 percent).
In 2010, low unionization rates occurred in agriculture and related industries (18,000 union members, or a rate of 1.6 percent) and in financial activities (160,000 members, or a rate of 2.0 percent).
These data on union membership are from the Current Population Survey. Unionization data are for wage and salary workers. Find out more in "Union Members — 2010" (HTML) (PDF), news release USDL-11-0063.