The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released their annual Union Summary this week. The New York Times sumed up the data quite well with their article title, Unionization Rate Lowest in a Century. Key quote from the article:
"The percentage of workers in unions fell to 11.3 percent, down from 11.8 percent in 2011 ... That brought unionization to its lowest level since 1912, when it was 11.1 percent ..."
Both private and public union membership fell in 2012, with public membership falling 234,000 and private membership dropping about 166,000.
Looking longer term we can see two clear union trends: (1) private union membership has been falling consistently since the late 1950s; and (2) public union membership has been increasing since the 1970s.
As the chart below shows, there are now more public sector union members (7.3 million, or 35.9% of the public workforce) than private sector union members (7 million, or 6.6% of the private workforce). The two crossed over in 2009, when recession driven union layoffs led to a decline of 800,000 private sector union members.
For those interested in historical data on union membership, visit Unionstats.com. The site is run by two college professors, has a good mix of data and is much easier to work with than the always confusing BLS website.