NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Even With Trump's Support, U.S. Labor Is Singing the Blues

February 2, 2017

NCPA Senior Fellow Thomas Hemphill writes at Real Clear Markets:

The U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its annual report on union membership last week, and the numbers are not favorable for the U.S. labor movement.  The BLS calculated (from data collected as part of the Current Population Survey) that union membership in 2016 was 10.7 percent, down 0.4 percent from 2015.  This percentage loss translates to a decline of 240,000 union members since 2015.  In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data is available to the BLS, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent; the 10.7 percent rate represents a 46.8 percent decline in American union membership over the ensuing 34 years.  Moreover, as of 2016 there are 14.6 million union members, as compared to 17.7 million union members in 1983.

Interestingly, private and public sector union membership in 2016 is now approaching parity, as approximately 7.4 million private sector workers and 7.1 million public sector workers are union members. Yet the union membership rates are significantly skewed, as the public sector union membership rate of 34.4 percent is over 5 times that of private sector union membership (6.4 percent).  There is empirical evidence that supports the argument that union members are paid higher wages than their non-union counterparts.  For 2016, the BLS reports that median weekly earnings of nonunion workers -- $802 -- were only 80 percent of union workers ($1,004).

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