Friday, February 4, 2011

Union Membership Rate Lowest in 15 Years


The New York Times

New York and New Jersey may have stopped shedding jobs in 2010, but their labor unions have not, a report released Thursday by the federal Department of Labor shows.

The two states are longtime strongholds of organized labor, but union membership in each fell to its lowest level in at least 15 years in 2010, the report (see also below) shows. All told, the number of union members in the two states declined by almost 145,000, while the total number of jobs in the two states was nearly flat at about 11.8 million, the report shows.

In New York, the share of all workers who are members of unions fell to 24.2 percent, from 25.2 percent in 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which has compiled comparable data since 1995. In New Jersey, the drop was more pronounced: union membership fell to 17.1 percent, from 19.3 percent in 2009.

That decline translated to a loss of almost 85,000 union jobs in New Jersey, where state and local governments have been laying off workers. New York lost about 60,000 union jobs last year, the bureau reported.

Workers were still much more likely to be members of unions in the two states than in most others.

The national rate of union membership in 2010 was 11.9 percent.

Despite the drop, New York remains the most highly unionized state in the nation. New Jersey is ranked sixth, also behind Alaska, Hawaii, Washington and California. California, where union membership rose to 17.5 percent from 17.2 percent in 2009, moved above New Jersey, Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan and Rhode Island last year.

In 2010, union members accounted for 24.2 percent of wage and salary workers in New York and 17.1percent in New Jersey, compared to 25.2 percent and 19.3 percent, respectively, in 2009, the U.S.Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.  Regional Commissioner Michael L. Dolfman noted that union membership rates in 2010 were the lowest rates recorded in both New York and New Jersey since 1995, when state data were first comparable. (See chart 1 and table A.)  Despite reaching serious lows, both states had union membership rates above that for the nation in 2010, as union members accounted for only 11.9 percent of employed wage and salary workers in the United States. New York’s union membership rate was the highest in the nation in 2010. 

See the report here:

New York had 1,959,000 union members in 2010 and New Jersey, 637,000.  In addition to thesemembers, another 140,000 wage and salary workers in New York and 23,000 in New Jersey wererepresented by a union on their main job or were covered by an employee association or contract whilenot union members themselves.  (See table A.)  Nationwide, 14.7 million wage and salary workers wereunion members in 2010, and about 1.6 million wage and salary workers were non-members representedby a union or covered by a contract.

In 2010, 31 states and the District of Columbia had union membership rates below the U.S. average,11.9 percent, while 19 had higher rates.  (See table 1.)  

All states in the Middle Atlantic (which includesNew York and New Jersey) 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.(See chart 2.)  

Union membership rates declined over the year in 33 states (including New York andNew Jersey) and the District of Columbia and rose in 17 states. 

Three states had union membership rates above 20 percent in 2010.  New York had the highest rate,followed by Alaska (22.9 percent) and Hawaii (21.8 percent).  

In fact, New York has had the highest membership rate in the nation for 14 of the past 16 years.

Eight states had union membership ratesbelow 5.0 percent, with North Carolina having the lowest, 3.2 percent.  The next lowest rates were recorded in Arkansas and Georgia (4.0 percent each), Louisiana (4.3 percent), Mississippi (4.5 percent),South Carolina and Virginia (4.6 percent each), and Tennessee (4.7 percent). 

About half of the 14.7 million union members in the United States lived in just six states (California, 2.4 million; New York, 2.0 million; Illinois and Pennsylvania, 0.8 million each; Ohio, 0.7 million; and NewJersey, 0.6 million), though these states accounted for only one-third of wage and salary employment nationally. 

State union membership levels depend on both the union membership rate and the employment level. For example, despite having 1.9 million fewer wage and salary employees statewide, New York had four times as many union members as Texas.  Similarly, New Jersey, with 58,000 fewer wage and salary employees, had over four times as many union members as Georgia.

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