Department of Labor Logo United States Department of Labor
Dot gov

The .gov means it's official.
Federal government websites often end in .gov or .mil. Before sharing sensitive information, make sure you're on a federal government site.

Https

The site is secure.
The https:// ensures that you are connecting to the official website and that any information you provide is encrypted and transmitted securely.

Union employment down 2.2 percent in 2020; total wage and salary employment down 6.7 percent

January 27, 2021

The number of union members, at 14.3 million in 2020, was down by 321,000, or 2.2 percent, from 2019. At 132.2 million in 2020, the number of wage and salary workers declined sharply from the prior year (by 9.6 million, or 6.7 percent). The large decline in wage and salary employment (mostly among nonunion workers) led to an increase of 0.5 percentage point in the union membership rate (10.8 percent). 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.

Change in employment for total wage and salary workers and union members, 1984–2020
Year Total wage and salary workers Union members

1984

3,904,000 -377,000

1985

2,327,000 -344,000

1986

2,382,000 -21,000

1987

2,400,000 -62,000

1988

2,104,000 89,000

1989

2,073,000 -42,000

1990

1,396,000 -184,000

1991

-1,153,000 -164,000

1992

945,000 -194,000

1993

1,433,000 209,000

1994

1,888,000 121,000

1995

2,049,000 -388,000

1996

1,922,000 -91,000

1997

2,573,000 -159,000

1998

2,197,000 101,000

1999

2,233,000 266,000

2000

3,126,000 -143,000

2001

140,000 -29,000

2002

-403,000 -160,000

2003

532,000 -369,000

2004

1,196,000 -304,000

2005

2,335,000 213,000

2006

2,348,000 -326,000

2007

1,530,000 311,000

2008

-390,000 428,000

2009

-4,887,000 -771,000

2010

-417,000 -612,000

2011

1,114,000 49,000

2012

2,390,000 -398,000

2013

1,533,000 162,000

2014

2,321,000 48,000

2015

2,312,000 219,000

2016

2,358,000 -240,000

2017

1,789,000 262,000

2018

2,209,000 -73,000

2019

1,638,000 -170,000

2020

-9,563,000 -321,000

In 2020, the percentage decline in wage and salary employment was disproportionately large for most demographic and worker groups. Notably, the number of women who were union members changed little (+0.7 percent) from the previous year, while wage and salary employment among women was down by 7.2 percent.

Similarly, the number of White union workers decreased by 2.4 percent, and the number of White wage and salary workers decreased by 6.4 percent. The number of Black (+0.6 percent) and Hispanic (+2.5 percent) union members changed little. However, the number of Black wage and salary workers declined 8.3 percent, and the number of Hispanic wage and salary workers fell 7.3 percent.

In local government, the number of union members changed little (+0.6 percent), while total wage and salary employment decreased by 4.9 percent. For all of these groups, the steep decline in total wage and salary employment in 2020 put upward pressure on their respective union membership rates.

Percentage change in total wage and salary workers and union members, by selected characteristics, 2019–20
Characteristic Total wage and salary workers Union members

Total

-6.7% -2.2%

Men

-6.3 -4.6

Women

-7.2 0.7

White

-6.4 -2.4

Black

-8.3 0.6

Asian

-7.7 -6.2

Hispanic

-7.3 2.5

Private sector

-7.6 -5.7

Federal government

2.5 4.1

State government

0.3 2.1

Local government

-4.9 0.6

Note: Union membership data do not include self-employed workers. People whose ethnicity is Hispanic or Latino may be of any race.

These data are from the Current Population Survey. To learn more, see “Union Members — 2020.” The union membership rate is calculated by dividing the number of union members by the number of wage and salary workers. Union membership data do not include self-employed workers. People whose ethnicity is Hispanic or Latino may be of any race.

SUGGESTED CITATION

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, Union employment down 2.2 percent in 2020; total wage and salary employment down 6.7 percent at https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2021/union-employment-down-2-2-percent-in-2020-total-wage-and-salary-employment-down-6-7-percent.htm (visited August 02, 2021).