Union Membership Keeps Dropping in 2006

January 26, 2007 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The number of employed wage and salary workers who were union members dropped 326,000 to 12% in 2006 - its lowest level in more than 20 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

That number was 20.1% in 1983, when BLS first provided such comparable numbers and that number has been declining steadily, according to a press release .

The union membership rate for government workers, 36.2%, was substantially higher than for private industry workers, 7.4%.

Local government workers in the public sector had the highest union membership at 41.9%, which includes several heavily unionized occupations, such as teachers, police officers, and firefighters.

Among major private industries, transportation and utilities had the highest union membership rate, at 23.2%, followed by construction at 13%. Within the information industry, telecommunications had a 20.7% union membership rate and the financial sector had the lowest unionization rate for the year at 1.9%.

Among occupational groups, education, training, and library occupations (37.3%) and protective service occupations (34.7%) had the highest unionization rates among occupational groups. Transportation and material moving occupations had 18.5% participation; construction and extraction occupations, 17.6%; installation, maintenance, and repair occupations, 15.8%; community and social services occupations, 15.6%; and production occupations, 15.5%.

Sales and related occupations had 3.1% participation and farming, fishing and forestry occupations had the lowest unionization rates, at 3.5%.

The BLS data also showed that union participation was higher for men (13%) than for women (10.9%).