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Union Rates Fall in 2006, Severe Drop in Manufacturing

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January 25, 2007 (Union Byte)

Union Rates Fall in 2006, Severe Drop in Manufacturing 

For Immediate Release: January 25, 2007

Contact: Lynn Erskine, 202-293-5380 x 115

Union Byte by John Schmitt and Ben Zipperer

For the first time in U.S. history, union membership rates were lower in manufacturing than in the rest of the economy.

Union membership declined sharply in 2006, from 12.5 percent of all workers in both 2004 and 2005, to just 12.0 percent of all workers last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics annual union membership report released today. Overall, the number of U.S. workers in a union fell last year by 326,000 workers, to 15.4 million workers in 2006.

The largest decrease in union membership rates occurred in manufacturing, where union membership dropped 1.3 percentage points to just 11.7 percent of manufacturing workers. For the first time since the BLS began tracking these trends, and likely for the first time in U.S. history, union membership rates were lower in manufacturing (11.7 percent) than in the rest of the economy (12.0 percent).

In addition to losses in manufacturing, very few segments of the private sector reported gains in unionization. Union membership in the private sector slid in 2006 to only 7.4 percent. Among public-sector workers, membership also fell (down 0.3 percentage points), but, at 36.2 percent, remained at levels consistent with those over the last two decades. Public-sector union jobs in 2006 accounted for almost half of union members, even though public-sector employment comprised less than one-fifth of the economy. 

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