48.9% of Union Members Worked for Government in 2016

By Terence P. Jeffrey | January 31, 2017 | 12:30pm EST
(AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - The percentage of all American wage and salary workers who belonged to a union dropped from 11.1 percent in 2015 to a record low of 10.7% in 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But the percentage of all union members who worked for government in 2016 remained at 48.9 percent--the same as it was in 2015.

The BLS reported that approximately 14,555,000 wage and salary workers in the United States belonged to unions in 2016. Of these, 7,435,000 (or 51.1 percent) worked for the private sector and 7,120,000 (or 48.9 percent) worked for government.

The percentage of workers in the private sector who belonged to unions declined from 6.7 percent in 2015 to a record low of 6.4 percent in 2016.

The percentage of government workers who belonged to unions declined from 35.2 percent in 2015 to 34.4 percent in 2016--also hitting a record low.

“Public-sector workers had a union membership rate (34.4 percent) more than five times higher than that of private-sector workers (6.4 percent),” the BLS said in a press release.

Among government workers, those employed by local government had the highest propensity to belong to unions (40.3 percent), followed by state workers (29.6 percent) and then federal workers (27.4 percent).

“Within the public sector,” sad BLS, “the union membership rate was highest for local government (40.3 percent), which includes employees in heavily unionized occupations, such as teachers, police officers, and firefighters.”

The BLS has published data on union membership going back to 1983. Since then, the highest percentage of wage and salary workers belonging to unions was 20.1 percent in 1983, the first year on record. The lowest was the 10.7 percent reported in 2016.

Among government workers, the highest percentage of union membership was reported in 1994, when it was 38.7 percent. The lowest percentage was the 34.4 percent reported in 2016.

The 7,120,000 government wage and salary workers belonging to unions in 2016 exceeded the populations of all but twelve states, as estimated for 2016 by the Census Bureau.

It exceeded, for example, the populations of Arizona (6,931,071), Massachusetts (6,811,000), Tennessee (6,651,194) and Maryland (6,016,447)

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