Union Membership Rate Lowest in 15 Years

New York and New Jersey may have stopped shedding jobs in 2010, but their labor unions have not, a report released Thursday by the federal Department of Labor shows.

The two states are longtime strongholds of organized labor, but union membership in each fell to its lowest level in at least 15 years in 2010, the report (see also below) shows. All told, the number of union members in the two states declined by almost 145,000, while the total number of jobs in the two states was nearly flat at about 11.8 million, the report shows.

In New York, the share of all workers who are members of unions fell to 24.2 percent, from 25.2 percent in 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which has compiled comparable data since 1995. In New Jersey, the drop was more pronounced: union membership fell to 17.1 percent, from 19.3 percent in 2009.

That decline translated to a loss of almost 85,000 union jobs in New Jersey, where state and local governments have been laying off workers. New York lost about 60,000 union jobs last year, the bureau reported.

Workers were still much more likely to be members of unions in the two states than in most others. The national rate of union membership in 2010 was 11.9 percent.

Despite the drop, New York remains the most highly unionized state in the nation. New Jersey is ranked sixth, also behind Alaska, Hawaii, Washington and California. California, where union membership rose to 17.5 percent from 17.2 percent in 2009, moved above New Jersey, Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan and Rhode Island last year.

Union Membership Report

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