The share of the U.S. workforce belonging to a union remained at 11.3 percent last year, though private-sector union membership increased slightly compared with the previous year, according to a new Bureau of Labor Statistics report released Friday.
The overall number of wage and salary workers in 2013 belonging to unions, at 14.5 million, was about the same as 2012. In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data is available, the union membership was 17.7 million, or 20.1 percent of the workforce.
The share of public-sector workers who belonged to a union last year was 35.9 percent, a decline of 0.6 percentage points from 2012. In the private sector, the unionization rate in 2013 was 6.7 percent, a slight jump from 6.6 percent in 2012.
While membership in public-sector unions dropped by 118,000 last year, that was offset by 281,000 new private-sector union members for a net gain of 162,000 workers -- a statistic labor activists say shows that private unions are still an attractive and viable option for American workers.
"Wall Street's Great Recession cost millions of America's workers their jobs and pushed already depressed wages down even further. But in 2013, America's workers pushed back," Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO labor federation said Friday. "At the same time, these numbers show that as unorganized workers have taken up the fight for their right to a voice on the job, union employers are hiring -- creating good jobs our economy desperately needs.”
Industries with the largest increases in union membership were construction, with an increase of 95,000, and manufacturing, which rose 93,000 -- particularly durable goods manufacturing, which was up 53,000.
By occupation, service jobs in the health care, protective services, food preparation, office cleaning and personal care fields saw an increase in union membership of 85,000. Within the group, the largest union membership increases were in food preparation and serving-related occupations, up 43,000, and health care support occupations, up 37,000.
Among states, New York continued to have the highest union membership rate at 24.4 percent, and North Carolina had the lowest rate at 3 percent. States with the largest increase in union members were New York (up 145,000), Illinois (up 50,000) and Alabama (up 37,000). The states with the largest declines in union members were Texas (down 81,000), California (down 59,000) and Oregon (down 32,000).
Men had a higher union membership rate -- 11.9 percent -- than women -- 10.5 percent. And black workers were more likely to be union members than white, Asian, or Hispanic workers.