US Union Membership Declines To Record Low In 2016

The manufacturing sector saw union membership fall from 9.4 percent in 2015 to 8.9 last year.

The U.S. Department of Labor said Thursday that the percentage of workers that belonged to unions fell to 10.7 percent in 2016.

The Wall Street Journal reported that last year's unionization rate was down from 11.1 percent in 2015 and represented a new record low. Although union membership in the U.S. declined for decades, the paper noted that the rate remained largely stable in recent annual reports.

The 2016 estimates, compiled from a monthly sample survey of about 60,000 households, found that that 14.6 million wage and salary workers belonged to unions last year, a decrease of about 240,000 compared to 2015. Another 1.7 million workers were covered by a union contract but did not belong to a union.

The Labor Department said that 7.1 million union members were employed in the public sector while 7.4 million worked for private employers, but the percentage of union members in the public sector, at 34.4 percent, was more than five times that of the 6.4 percent in the private sector.

Both the public- and private-sector unionization rates declined compared to 2015 levels. The public sector was paced by local government, which included teachers, police officer, firefighters and other heavily unionized fields.

In the private sector, utility workers reported the highest unionization rate at 21.5 percent, followed by transportation and warehousing at 18.4 percent and telecommunications at 14.6 percent.

The manufacturing sector saw union membership fall from 9.4 percent in 2015 to 8.9 last year.

The Labor Department reported that median weekly earnings were about 25 percent higher for union members than non-union members, but the agency cautioned that those numbers "do not control for many factors that can be important in explaining earnings differences."

New York maintained its highest unionization rate among states at 23.6 percent and was the only state to clear the 20 percent threshold. South Carolina reported the lowest rate at 1.6 percent.

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