Hawaii and New York remained the leaders in union membership rates in 2020, despite impacts from the coronavirus pandemic on the labor market, according to the latest release from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The overall union membership rate in the U.S. was 10.8% last year — a slight increase compared to 2019, the bureau reported. This rate increase happened despite 321,000 fewer wage or salary workers belonging to unions. But the rate also rose because union workers saw fewer job losses than nonunion workers in 2020, according to the release, which is also noted in an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute.
“These increases reflect the disproportionately large decline in total wage and salary employment (mostly among nonunion workers) compared with the decline in the number of union members,” the Bureau of Labor Statistics release reads, referring to the 9.6 million decrease in total wage and salary employment last year due to COVID-19.
“Despite devastating job losses overall, including the shedding of more than 1.3 million public service jobs due to massive revenue and budget shortfalls, union membership rates rose in the public sector — because union members experienced less job loss than their nonunion peers,” said Lee Saunders, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees trade union.
Hawaii — at nearly 24% — remained the state with the highest union membership rate, followed closely behind by New York at 22%. Connecticut, Maine and Minnesota all saw big increases — greater than 2 percentage points each, the largest spikes among states — in union membership compared to 2019, but still fell outside the top five overall.
The 10 States With the Highest Union Membership Rates in 2020
— Hawaii: 23.7%
— New York: 22%
— Rhode Island: 17.8%
— Alaska: 17.7%
— Washington: 17.4%
— Connecticut: 17.1%
— California: 16.2%
— Oregon: 16.2%
— New Jersey: 16.1%
— Minnesota: 15.8%
Washington remained near the top of the list despite a union membership rate decrease of 1.4 percentage points.
Also like the year prior, the Carolinas remained at the bottom of the union membership rate list in 2020 despite increases of close to 1 percentage point each compared to 2019. Utah and South Dakota both saw rate decreases and followed closely behind. Other states that saw declines of more than 1 percentage point in their union membership rate last year were Colorado, Missouri and Nevada.
The 10 States With the Lowest Union Membership Rates in 2020
— South Carolina: 2.9%
— North Carolina: 3.1%
— Utah: 3.7%
— South Dakota: 4.3%
— Virginia: 4.4%
— Tennessee: 4.4%
— Georgia: 4.6%
— Arkansas: 4.7%
— Texas: 4.9%
— Arizona: 5.3%
State governments and the federal government saw their unionization rates move in opposite directions in 2020. The rate for state and local governments increased from 38.7% to 40.3% last year, while the federal government’s rate fell from 30.5% to 30%, according to the Economic Policy Institute. The institute noted in its analysis that industries with lower unionization rates — such as leisure and hospitality — have tended to see the most employment losses amid the pandemic, unlike industries with higher unionization rates, including the public sector.
“One of the headlines from this is that union membership provides protections against the harshest layoffs at a time of economic crisis,” Rebecca Givan, a professor of labor studies and employment relations at Rutgers University, told The Washington Post. “Union members are able to negotiate furloughs, retirement, work sharing and other mutually beneficial plans rather than being immediately laid off.”
More from U.S. News
Hawaii, New York Continue to Lead U.S. in Union Membership Rate originally appeared on usnews.com