UNION MEMBERS – 2017
News Release from US Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 19, 2018
The union membership rate--the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of unions--was unchanged at 10.7 percent in 2017, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions, at 14.8 million in 2017, edged up by 262,000 from 2016. 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 non-institutional population age 16 and over. For more information,
see the Technical Note in this news release.
Highlights from the 2017 data:
--The union membership rate of public-sector workers (34.4 percent)
continued to be more than five times higher than that of private-
sector workers (6.5 percent). (See table 3.)
--Workers in protective service occupations and in education, training,
and library occupations had the highest unionization rates (34.7
percent and 33.5 percent, respectively). (See table 3.)
--Men continued to have a higher union membership rate (11.4 percent)
than women (10.0 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 80 percent of
earnings for workers who were union members ($829 versus $1,041). (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, New York continued to have the highest union membership
rate (23.8 percent), while South Carolina continued to have the lowest
(2.6 percent). (See table 5.)
Industry and Occupation of Union Members
In 2017, 7.2 million employees in the public sector belonged to a union, compared
with 7.6 million workers in the private sector. Although the union membership
rate for private-sector workers edged up by 0.1 percentage point in 2017, their
unionization rate continued to be substantially lower than that for public-sector
workers (6.5 percent versus 34.4 percent). Within the public sector, the union
membership rate was highest in local government (40.1 percent), which employs many workers in heavily unionized occupations, such as teachers, police officers, andfirefighters. Private-sector industries with high unionization rates included utilities (23.0 percent), transportation and warehousing (17.3 percent), telecommunications (16.1 percent), and construction (14.0 percent). Low unionization rates occurred in finance (1.1 percent), food services and drinking places (1.4 percent), and professional and technical services (1.7 percent). (See table 3.)
Among occupational groups, the highest unionization rates in 2017 were in protective service occupations (34.7 percent) and in education, training, and library occupations (33.5 percent). The rate for workers in education, training, and library occupations continued to decline in 2017. Unionization rates were lowest in sales and related occupations (3.2 percent); farming, fishing, and forestry occupations (3.4 percent); food preparation and serving related occupations (3.8 percent); and in computer and mathematical occupations (3.9 percent).
Selected Characteristics of Union Members
In 2017, the union membership rate continued to be higher for men (11.4 percent) than for women (10.0 percent); over the year, the rate for men edged up, and the rate for women edged down. (See table 1.) However, 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, respectively.
Among major race and ethnicity groups, Black workers continued to have a higher union membership rate in 2017 (12.6 percent) than workers who were White (10.6 percent), Asian (8.9 percent), or Hispanic (9.3 percent).
By age, union membership rates continued to be highest among workers ages 45 to 64. In 2017, 13.2 percent of workers ages 45 to 54 and 13.5 percent of those ages 55 to 64 were union members.
In 2017, the union membership rate for full-time workers was about twice the rate
for part-time workers (11.8 percent versus 5.7 percent).
In 2017, 16.4 million wage and salary workers were represented by a union. This
group includes both union members (14.8 million) and workers who report no union affiliation but whose jobs are covered by a union contract (1.6 million). (See
Among full-time wage and salary workers, union members had median usual weekly earnings of $1,041 in 2017, while those who were not union members had median weekly earnings of $829. 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 2017, 27 states and the District of Columbia had union membership rates below
that of the U.S. average, 10.7 percent, while 22 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 the New England, Middle Atlantic, and Pacific divisions had rates
above it. Union membership rates increased over the year in 25 states and the
District, decreased in 21 states, and were unchanged in 4 states. (See table 5.)
Nine states had union membership rates below 5.0 percent in 2017, with South
Carolina having the lowest rate (2.6 percent). The next lowest rates were in
North Carolina (3.4 percent) and Utah (3.9 percent). Two states had union membership rates over 20.0 percent in 2017: New York (23.8 percent) and Hawaii (21.3 percent).
The largest numbers of union members lived in California (2.5 million) and New York (2.0 million). Over half of the 14.8 million union members in the U.S. lived in just seven states (California, 2.5 million; New York, 2.0 million; Illinois, 0.8 million;
Michigan and Pennsylvania, 0.7 million each; and New Jersey and Ohio, 0.6 million
each), though these states accounted for only about one-third of wage and salary