Economic News Release

Union Membership (Annual) News Release


For release 10:00 a.m. (EST) Friday, January 22, 2010           USDL-10-0069

Technical information:  (202) 691-6378  *  cpsinfo@bls.gov  *  www.bls.gov/cps
Media contact:          (202) 691-5902  *  PressOffice@bls.gov


                         Union Members - 2009


In 2009, the union membership rate--the percent of wage and salary
workers who were members of a union--was 12.3 percent, essentially
unchanged from 12.4 percent a year earlier, the U.S. Bureau of Labor
Statistics reported today. The number of wage and salary workers
belonging to unions declined by 771,000 to 15.3 million, largely
reflecting the overall drop in employment due to the recession. 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 were collected as part of the Current
Population Survey (CPS). The CPS is a monthly sample survey of about
60,000 households that obtains information on employment and unemploy-
ment among the nation's civilian noninstitutional population age 16 
and over.

Some highlights from the 2009 data are:

     --More public sector employees (7.9 million) belonged to a 
       union than did private sector employees (7.4 million), 
       despite there being 5 times more wage and salary workers 
       in the private sector.

     --Workers in education, training, and library occupations 
       had the highest unionization rate at 38.1 percent.

     --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 (25.2 percent) and North Carolina had the lowest 
       rate (3.1 percent).

Industry and Occupation of Union Members

In 2009, 7.9 million public sector employees belonged to a union,
compared with 7.4 million union workers in the private sector. The
union membership rate for public sector workers (37.4 percent) was
substantially higher than the rate for private industry workers (7.2
percent). Within the public sector, local government workers had the
highest union membership rate, 43.3 percent. This group includes work-
ers in heavily unionized occupations, such as teachers, police offi-
cers, and fire fighters. Private sector industries with high unioni-
zation rates included transportation and utilities (22.2 percent), 
telecommunications (16.0 percent), and construction (14.5 percent). 
In 2009, low unionization rates occurred in agriculture and related 
industries (1.1 percent) and financial activities (1.8 percent). 
(See table 3.)

Among occupational groups, education, training, and library occupa-
tions (38.1 percent) and protective service occupations (35.6 percent) 
had the highest unionization rates in 2009. Farming, fishing, and fores-
try occupations (2.8 percent) and sales and related occupations (3.1 
percent) had the lowest unionization rates. (See table 3.)

Demographic Characteristics of Union Members

The union membership rate was higher for men (13.3 percent) than for
women (11.3 percent) in 2009. (See table 1.) The gap between their
rates has narrowed considerably since 1983, when the rate for men was
about 10 percentage points higher than the rate for women. Between
1983 and 2009, the union membership rate for men declined by 11.4 per-
centage points, while the rate for women declined by 3.3 percentage
points.

In 2009, among major race and ethnicity groups, black workers were
more likely to be union members (13.9 percent) than workers who were
white (12.1 percent), Asian (11.4 percent), or Hispanic (10.2 percent). 
Black men had the highest union membership rate (15.4 percent), while 
Hispanic women had the lowest rate (9.7 percent).

By age, the union membership rate was highest among workers 55 to 64
years old (16.6 percent). The lowest union membership rate occurred
among those ages 16 to 24 (4.7 percent).

Union Representation

In 2009, 16.9 million wage and salary workers were represented by a
union. This group includes both union members (15.3 million) and
workers who report no union affiliation but whose jobs are covered by
a union contract (1.6 million). (See table 1.) Government employees
(781,000) comprised nearly half of the 1.6 million workers who were
covered by a union contract, but not members of a union. (See 
table 3.)

Earnings

In 2009, among full-time wage and salary workers, union members had
median usual weekly earnings of $908, while those who were not repre-
sented by unions had median weekly earnings of $710. (See table 2.) 
In addition to coverage by a collective bargaining agreement, the
difference reflects a variety of influences including variations in
the distributions of union members and nonunion employees by occupa-
tion, industry, firm size, or geographic region.

Union Membership by State

In 2009, 29 states and the District of Columbia had union membership
rates below that of the U.S. average, 12.3 percent, while 20 states
had higher rates, and 1 state had the same rate. All states in the
Middle Atlantic and Pacific divisions reported union membership rates
above the national average, and all states in the East South Central
and West South Central divisions had rates below it. Union membership
rates rose over the year in 24 states, declined in 21 states and the
District of Columbia, and were unchanged in 5 states. (See table 5.)

Six states had union membership rates below 5.0 percent in 2009, with
North Carolina having the lowest rate (3.1 percent). The next lowest
rates were recorded in Arkansas (4.2 percent), South Carolina (4.5
percent), Georgia (4.6 percent), Virginia (4.7 percent), and Mississi-
ppi (4.8 percent). Four states had union membership rates over 20.0 
percent in 2009--New York (25.2 percent), Hawaii (23.5 percent), Alaska 
(22.3 percent), and Washington (20.2 percent).

State union membership levels depend on both the employment level and
union membership rate. The largest numbers of union members lived in 
California (2.5 million) and New York (2.0 million). About half of the 
15.3 million union members in the U.S. lived in just 6 states (Cali-
fornia, 2.5  million; New York, 2.0 million; Illinois, 1.0 million;
Pennsylvania, 0.8 million; and Michigan and New Jersey, 0.7 million 
each), though these states accounted for only one-third of wage and 
salary employment nationally.

Texas (the second largest state in terms of the number of wage and 
salary workers) had one-fourth as many union members as New York (the 
third largest), despite having 1.9 million more wage and salary em-
ployees. Similarly, Tennessee and Hawaii had comparable numbers of 
union members (121,000 and 123,000, respectively), though Tennessee's 
wage and salary employment level (2.4 million) was more than 4 times 
that of Hawaii (526,000).





Technical Note


   The estimates in this release are obtained from the Current Population 
Survey (CPS), which provides the basic information on the labor force, 
employment, and unemployment.  The survey is conducted monthly for the 
Bureau of Labor Statistics by the U.S. Census Bureau from a scientifically 
selected national sample of about 60,000 households.  The union membership 
and earnings data are tabulated from one-quarter of the CPS monthly sample 
and are limited to wage and salary workers.  All self-employed workers 
are excluded.
   
   The Census Bureau introduces adjustments to the population controls for the 
CPS as part of its annual update of population estimates.  The effect of the 
revised population controls on the union membership estimates is unknown. How-
ever, the effect of the new controls on the monthly CPS estimates was to de-
crease the December 2008 employment level by 407,000. The updated controls had
little or no effect on unemployment rates and other ratios.  Estimated levels,
such as the number of union members for 2009, are not strictly comparable with
estimated levels for 2008. These adjustments to the levels, however, should
have had only negligible effects on union membership rates. Additional infor-
mation is available on the BLS Web site at www.bls.gov/cps/documentation.htm#pop.
   
   Information in this release will be made available to sensory impaired indi-
viduals upon request. Voice phone: (202) 691-5200; Federal Relay Service: 
(800) 877-8339.

Reliability of the estimates

   Statistics based on the CPS are subject to both sampling and nonsampling error.  
When a sample, rather than the entire population, is surveyed, there is a chance 
that the sample estimates may differ from the "true" population values they repre-
sent.  The exact difference, or sampling error, varies depending upon the particular 
sample selected, and this variability is measured by the standard error of the esti-
mate.  There is about a 90-percent chance, or level of confidence, that an esti-
mate based on a sample will differ by no more than 1.6 standard errors from the 
"true" population value because of sampling error.  BLS analyses are generally 
conducted at the 90-percent level of confidence.  The state section of this release 
preserves the long-time practice of highlighting the direction of the movements in 
state union membership rates and levels regardless of their statistical significance.
   
   The CPS data also are affected by nonsampling error.  Nonsampling error can occur 
for many reasons, including the failure to sample a segment of the population, in-
ability to obtain information for all respondents in the sample, inability or unwill-
ingness of respondents to provide correct information, and errors made in the collec-
tion or processing of the data.

   For a full discussion of the reliability of data from the CPS and information on 
estimating standard errors, see the Household Data section of the "Explanatory Notes 
and Estimates of Error" available on the BLS Web site at http://www.bls.gov/cps/
eetech_methods.pdf.

Definitions

   The principal definitions used in this release are described briefly below.

   Union members.  Data refer to members of a labor union or an employee association 
similar to a union.

   Represented by unions.  Data refer to both union members and workers who report no
union affiliation but whose jobs are covered by a union or an employee association 
contract.

   Nonunion.  Data refer to workers who are neither members of a union nor represented 
by a union on their job.

   Usual weekly earnings.  Data represent earnings before taxes and other deductions 
and include any overtime pay, commissions, or tips usually received (at the main job 
in the case of multiple jobholders).  Prior to 1994, respondents were asked how much 
they usually earned per week.  Since January 1994, respondents have been asked to iden-
tify the easiest way for them to report earnings (hourly, weekly, biweekly, twice month-
ly, monthly, annually, other) and how much they usually earn in the reported time period.  
Earnings reported on a basis other than weekly are converted to a weekly equivalent.  
The term "usual" is as perceived by the respondent.  If the respondent asks for a defini-
tion of usual, interviewers are instructed to define the term as more than half of the 
weeks worked during the past 4 or 5 months.

   Median earnings.  The median is the amount which divides a given earnings distri-
bution into two equal groups, one having earnings above the median and the other 
having earnings below the median.  The estimating procedure places each reported or 
calculated weekly earnings value into $50-wide intervals which are centered around 
multiples of $50.  The actual value is estimated through the linear interpolation of 
the interval in which the median lies.

   Wage and salary workers.  Workers who receive wages, salaries, commissions, tips,
payment in kind, or piece rates.  The group includes employees in both the private 
and public sectors. Union membership and earnings data exclude all self-employed workers,
both those with incorporated businesses as well as those with unincorporated businesses.

   Full-time workers.  Workers who usually work 35 hours or more per week at their 
sole or principal job.

   Part-time workers.  Workers who usually work fewer than 35 hours per week at their 
sole or principal job.

   Hispanic or Latino ethnicity.  Refers to persons who identified themselves in the 
enumeration process as being Spanish, Hispanic, or Latino.  Persons whose ethnicity is 
identified as Hispanic or Latino may be of any race.






lang="en">
Table 1. Union affiliation of employed wage and salary workers by selected characteristics Numbers in thousands
Characteristic 2008 2009
Total
employed
Members
of
unions(1)
Represented
by unions(2)
Total
employed
Members
of
unions(1)
Represented
by unions(2)
Total Percent
of
employed
Total Percent
of
employed
Total Percent
of
employed
Total Percent
of
employed

AGE AND SEX

Total, 16 years and over

129,377 16,098 12.4 17,761 13.7 124,490 15,327 12.3 16,904 13.6

16 to 24 years

18,705 930 5.0 1,062 5.7 17,173 813 4.7 941 5.5

25 years and over

110,672 15,168 13.7 16,699 15.1 107,317 14,514 13.5 15,962 14.9

25 to 34 years

29,276 3,120 10.7 3,443 11.8 28,067 2,942 10.5 3,262 11.6

35 to 44 years

29,708 3,993 13.4 4,365 14.7 28,066 3,669 13.1 4,035 14.4

45 to 54 years

29,787 4,767 16.0 5,228 17.6 29,054 4,551 15.7 4,994 17.2

55 to 64 years

17,430 2,887 16.6 3,209 18.4 17,599 2,926 16.6 3,186 18.1

65 years and over

4,471 401 9.0 454 10.2 4,530 425 9.4 485 10.7

Men, 16 years and over

66,846 8,938 13.4 9,724 14.5 63,539 8,441 13.3 9,176 14.4

16 to 24 years

9,537 555 5.8 617 6.5 8,555 493 5.8 560 6.5

25 years and over

57,309 8,383 14.6 9,107 15.9 54,984 7,947 14.5 8,616 15.7

25 to 34 years

15,780 1,750 11.1 1,909 12.1 14,952 1,633 10.9 1,786 11.9

35 to 44 years

15,653 2,307 14.7 2,491 15.9 14,679 2,077 14.1 2,250 15.3

45 to 54 years

14,988 2,608 17.4 2,812 18.8 14,421 2,492 17.3 2,693 18.7

55 to 64 years

8,657 1,525 17.6 1,682 19.4 8,647 1,536 17.8 1,654 19.1

65 years and over

2,230 193 8.7 213 9.6 2,285 211 9.2 233 10.2

Women, 16 years and over

62,532 7,160 11.4 8,036 12.9 60,951 6,887 11.3 7,727 12.7

16 to 24 years

9,168 374 4.1 445 4.8 8,619 320 3.7 381 4.4

25 years and over

53,364 6,785 12.7 7,592 14.2 52,333 6,567 12.5 7,346 14.0

25 to 34 years

13,496 1,370 10.1 1,534 11.4 13,116 1,309 10.0 1,476 11.3

35 to 44 years

14,055 1,685 12.0 1,874 13.3 13,387 1,593 11.9 1,785 13.3

45 to 54 years

14,799 2,159 14.6 2,416 16.3 14,633 2,060 14.1 2,302 15.7

55 to 64 years

8,773 1,363 15.5 1,527 17.4 8,952 1,390 15.5 1,532 17.1

65 years and over

2,241 208 9.3 241 10.7 2,245 215 9.6 252 11.2

RACE, HISPANIC OR LATINO ETHNICITY,
AND SEX

White, 16 years and over

105,052 12,863 12.2 14,222 13.5 101,581 12,330 12.1 13,595 13.4

Men

55,197 7,309 13.2 7,961 14.4 52,691 6,918 13.1 7,512 14.3

Women

49,855 5,555 11.1 6,261 12.6 48,889 5,412 11.1 6,083 12.4

Black or African American, 16 years and over

15,030 2,178 14.5 2,370 15.8 14,127 1,966 13.9 2,172 15.4

Men

6,809 1,081 15.9 1,159 17.0 6,257 964 15.4 1,046 16.7

Women

8,221 1,097 13.3 1,211 14.7 7,870 1,002 12.7 1,126 14.3

Asian, 16 years and over

6,157 653 10.6 714 11.6 5,847 664 11.4 730 12.5

Men

3,216 310 9.6 339 10.6 3,075 332 10.8 370 12.0

Women

2,941 344 11.7 374 12.7 2,772 333 12.0 361 13.0

Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, 16 years and over

18,572 1,960 10.6 2,168 11.7 18,034 1,841 10.2 2,036 11.3

Men

10,998 1,204 11.0 1,317 12.0 10,518 1,108 10.5 1,199 11.4

Women

7,574 756 10.0 852 11.2 7,515 733 9.7 836 11.1

FULL- OR PART-TIME STATUS(3)

Full-time workers

106,648 14,561 13.7 16,029 15.0 99,820 13,602 13.6 14,960 15.0

Part-time workers

22,497 1,505 6.7 1,697 7.5 24,431 1,698 7.0 1,913 7.8

Footnotes
(1) Data refer to members of a labor union or an employee association similar to a union.
(2) Data refer to both union members and workers who report no union affiliation but whose jobs are covered by a union or an employee association contract.
(3) The distinction between full- and part-time workers is based on hours usually worked. These data will not sum to totals because full- or part-time status on the principal job is not identifiable for a small number of multiple jobholders.

NOTE: Estimates for the above race groups (white, black or African American, and Asian) do not sum to totals because data are not presented for all races. Persons whose ethnicity is identified as Hispanic or Latino may be of any race. Data refer to the sole or principal job of full- and part-time wage and salary workers. All self-employed workers are excluded, both those with incorporated businesses as well as those with unincorporated businesses. Updated population controls are introduced annually with the release of January data.