Union share of workforce slumps below pre-Covid level

By Alex Tanzi | Bloomberg

US union membership fell to a record low as a share of the workforce in 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The union membership rate — the share of wage and salary workers who were members of unions — was 10.1% last year, falling below the pre-pandemic level of 10.3% in 2019, the BLS reported on Thursday. In 1983, the first year for which comparable data are available, the membership rate was 20.1%.

The numbers show that recent high-profile efforts to unionize employees at companies like Starbucks and Amazon.com haven’t reached far into the labor force, while President Joe Biden’s commitment to supporting unions hasn’t reversed their long-term decline.

US workers have been winning pay raises because of a tight jobs market, which has left employers struggling to hire.

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Union membership among private employers fell to just 6% in 2022, while about one-third of public-sector workers are members of a union and 36.1% are represented by one. Overall, the number of US workers in unions increased by about 273,000 between 2021 and 2022, to 14.3 million.

Membership among unions rates varies sharply across the nation, with rates of over 20% in Hawaii and New York. Some 30% of the country’s total union members live in New York or California. Less than 3% of workers are unionized in the Carolinas, and 11 states have membership rates below 5%.

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