Union Membership on the Rise

February 17, 2009 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Union members accounted for 12.4% of employed wage and salary workers in 2008, up from 12.1% a year earlier, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported.

A BLS news release said the number of union workers went up by 428,000 to 16.1 million. The union membership data was collected as part of the Current Population Survey (CPS).

According to the BLS, other 2008 data highlights included that:

  • Government workers were nearly five times more likely to belong to a union than were private sector employees.
  • Workers in education, training, and library occupations had the highest unionization rate at 38.7%.
  • Black workers were more likely to be union members than were white, Asian, or Hispanic workers.
  • Among states, New York had the highest union membership rate (24.9%) and North Carolina had the lowest rate (3.5%).

The government data showed that the union membership rate for public sector workers (36.8%) was substantially higher than the rate for private industry workers (7.6%). Within the public sector, local government workers had the highest union membership rate, 42.2%, including workers in several heavily unionized occupations, such as teachers, police officers, and firefighters.

Private sector industries with high unionization rates include transportation and utilities (22.2%), telecommunications (19.3%), and construction (15.6%). In 2008, unionization rates were relatively low in financial activities (1.8%) and professional and business services (2.1%).

More information about the government union participation data is available here .