NATIONAL—In its annual release on national union membership, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the percentage of wage and salary workers who were members of unions was 10.8% across all industries.

The percentage increased by 0.5% from 2019. However, due in part to layoffs and fluctuations in the job market caused by the pandemic, the number of wage and salary workers belonging to a union totaled 14.3 million in 2020, which was down by 321,000 workers or 2.2% year over year. Self-employed workers were excluded from the report. 

In construction, the percentage of union membership increased slightly in 2020—from 12.6% to 12.7%—but the number of workers in unions declined from a little over one million to 993,000 in 2020. 

 

 

In terms of union vs. nonunion construction wages, the construction industry saw an increase in nonunion median weekly wages from $868 to $920 year over year. The number was approximately 29% less than average union and union-affiliated wages for comparative roles. 

The overall decline in total wage and salary employment compared with the decline in the number of union members led to an increased union membership rate, according to the BLS's press release. In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data is available, the union membership rate was 20.1% and accounted for 17.7 million union workers. 

A few other highlights from the data: 

  • The union membership rate of public-sector workers (34.8%) continued to be more than five times higher than the rate of private-sector workers (6.3%).
  • The highest unionization rates were among workers in protective service occupation (36.6%) and in education, training, and library occupations (35.9 %).
  • Men continued to have a higher union membership rate (11%) than women (10.5 %).
  • Black workers remained more likely to be union members than white, Asian or Hispanic workers. 
  • Nonunion workers had median weekly earnings that were 84% of earnings for workers who were union members ($958 versus $1,144).
  • Among states, Hawaii and New York continued to have the highest union membership rates (23.7% and 22%, respectively), while South Carolina and North Carolina continued to have the lowest (2.9% and 3.1%, respectively).