Union Membership Rises Slightly in Private Sector

By Allen Smith Jan 29, 2014

In 2013 union membership ticked up in the private sector but fell in the public sector, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data released Jan. 24, 2014.

In the private sector the number of unionized workers rose from 7,037,000, or 6.6 percent of those employed by companies, to 7,318,000, or 6.7 percent. However, in the public sector, the number of unionized workers declined from 7,328,000, or 35.9 percent employed by the federal, state or local government, to 7,210,000, or 35.3 percent. The decrease in unionized public employees was due partly to layoffs by local, state and federal governments.

Growth States

Of the seven states with more than half of the 14.5 million union members in the United States (California, 2.4 million; New York, approximately 2 million; Illinois, 851,000; Pennsylvania, 700,000; and Michigan, New Jersey and Ohio, 600,000 each), New York and Illinois led in terms of membership gains. New York saw an increase from 1,841,000 members in 2012 to 1,986,000 in 2013, and Illinois rose from 801,000 to 851,000.

Other states that had upticks in union membership include:

  • Alabama—from 166,000 to 203,000.
  • Alaska—from 67,000 to 71,000.
  • Arkansas—from 37,000 to 38,000.
  • Georgia—from 171,000 to 209,000.
  • Hawaii—from 116,000 to 121,000.
  • Indiana—from 246,000 to 249,000.
  • Kansas—from 85,000 to 94,000.
  • Kentucky—from 174,000 to 194,000.
  • Maryland—from 280,000 to 308,000.
  • Minnesota—from 351,000 to 362,000.
  • Nebraska—from 52,000 to 63,000.
  • North Carolina—from 112,000 to 117,000.
  • North Dakota—from 20,000 to 22,000.
  • South Carolina—from 58,000 to 69,000.
  • Tennessee—from 124,000 to 155,000.
  • Virginia—from 159,000 to 180,000.
  • Washington—from 513,000 to 546,000.
  • West Virginia—from 84,000 to 87,000.
  • Wisconsin—from 293,000 to 317,000.

In addition, the number of unionized workers in the District of Columbia rose from 27,000 to 29,000.

More Data

Among the states with the largest number of union members, California and Pennsylvania trailed off the most. Union membership in the Golden State dropped from 2,489,000 to 2,430,000, while in the Keystone State it dipped from 734,000 to 701,000.

New York continued to have the highest union membership rate at 24.4 percent, while North Carolina had the lowest at 3 percent.

In the private sector, industries with high unionization rates included utilities (25.6 percent), transportation and warehousing (19.6 percent), telecommunications (14.4 percent) and construction (14.1 percent). The highest unionization rates were in education, training and library occupations and in protective-service occupations (35.3 percent each).

Within the public sector, the unionization rate was highest for local government workers (40.8 percent), including teachers, police officers and firefighters.

In 2013 union members earned an average of $950 per week, while nonunion employees earned $750 per week.

Allen Smith, J.D., is the manager of workplace law content for SHRM. Follow him @SHRMlegaleditor.


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