US Unionization Rate Hits All-time Low

US Unionization Rate Hits All-time Low

US Unionization Rate Hits All-time Low

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the percentage of U.S. workers who belong to a union dropped from 10.3% to 10.1%.

There has been a ripple of articles across US news sources in the last year or so suggesting a possible resurgence in US labor unions membership, including stories about union membership drives at some Starbucks stores, at an Amazon warehouse, and among graduate students at some universities. But for an overall picture, here are the most recent annual numbers on US union membership from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (January 19, 2023):

The union membership rate—the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of unions— was 10.1 percent in 2022, down from 10.3 percent in 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions, at 14.3 million in 2022, increased by 273,000, or 1.9 percent, from 2021. However, the total number of wage and salary workers grew by 5.3 million (mostly among nonunion workers), or 3.9 percent. This disproportionately large increase in the number of total wage and salary employment compared with the increase in the number of union members led to a decrease in the union membership rate. The 2022 unionization rate (10.1 percent) is the lowest on record. In 1983, the first year where comparable union data were available, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent and there were 17.7 million union workers.

Here are a few additional facts about US labor union membership from the BLS:

  • The union membership rate of public-sector workers (33.1 percent) continued to be more than five

    times higher than the rate of private-sector workers (6.0 percent). …

  • The highest unionization rates were among workers in protective service occupations (34.6 percent)

    and in education, training, and library occupations (33.7 percent). …

  • In 2022, 7.1 million employees in the public sector belonged to unions, about the same as in the private sector (7.2 million)….

  • Industries with high unionization rates included utilities (19.6 percent), motion pictures and sound recording industries (17.3 percent), and transportation and warehousing (14.5 percent). Low unionization rates occurred in insurance (1.2 percent), finance (1.3 percent), professional and technical services (1.3 percent), and food services and drinking places (1.4 percent).

  • Among occupational groups, the highest unionization rates in 2022 were in protective service occupations (34.6 percent) and in education, training, and library occupations (33.7 percent). Unionization rates were lowest in sales and related occupations (3.0 percent); computer and mathematical occupations (3.3 percent); food preparation and serving related occupations (3.6 percent); and management occupations (3.8 percent). …

  • Among major race and ethnicity groups, Black workers continued to have a higher union membership rate in 2022 (11.6 percent) than White workers (10.0 percent), Asian workers (8.3 percent), and Hispanic workers (8.8 percent).

For some recent posts on unionization and possibilities for other types of organized voice for labor, see:

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Timothy Taylor

Global Economy Expert

Timothy Taylor is an American economist. He is managing editor of the Journal of Economic Perspectives, a quarterly academic journal produced at Macalester College and published by the American Economic Association. Taylor received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Haverford College and a master's degree in economics from Stanford University. At Stanford, he was winner of the award for excellent teaching in a large class (more than 30 students) given by the Associated Students of Stanford University. At Minnesota, he was named a Distinguished Lecturer by the Department of Economics and voted Teacher of the Year by the master's degree students at the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. Taylor has been a guest speaker for groups of teachers of high school economics, visiting diplomats from eastern Europe, talk-radio shows, and community groups. From 1989 to 1997, Professor Taylor wrote an economics opinion column for the San Jose Mercury-News. He has published multiple lectures on economics through The Teaching Company. With Rudolph Penner and Isabel Sawhill, he is co-author of Updating America's Social Contract (2000), whose first chapter provided an early radical centrist perspective, "An Agenda for the Radical Middle". Taylor is also the author of The Instant Economist: Everything You Need to Know About How the Economy Works, published by the Penguin Group in 2012. The fourth edition of Taylor's Principles of Economics textbook was published by Textbook Media in 2017.

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