Union Market Share of Construction Market Slides in 2018

Ally D'Ovidio News

The percentage of union members in construction has decreased by more than a percentage point, from 14 percent in 2017 to 12.8 in 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The overall percentage of union membership in all industries is down from 10.7 percent in 2017 to 10.5 in 2018, with the total number of workers belonging to unions standing at 14.7 million. These numbers cover wage and salary workers belonging to unions broken down by demographics, industry, hours and state.  

BLS estimates 2018 total construction employment was 8.169 million workers, up from 7.844 million in 2017. A total of 1.048 million workers in construction belong to a union. As the number of total employees in construction has risen and the total number of construction employees in unions has stayed consistent, one can conclude that many of the new workers entering the industry are declining to join their local union. 

Other key finding from the BLS report:

• Hawaii joins New York as one of two states with the highest overall union membership rates in 2018, at 23.1 percent and 22.3 percent respectively.
• North and South Carolina had the lowest overall union membership rate in 2018, at 2.7 percent each. 
• The private sector union membership rate is 6.4 percent, considerably lower than the public sector rate of 33.9 percent, as expected.
• Union membership rates were again highest among workers aged 45 to 64—12.8 percent among workers 45 to 54 and 13.3 percent among those 55 to 64.
• All states in the Middle Atlantic and Pacific divisions had rates above the national average. A total of 20 states came in at or above the national average, with 29 states and the District of Columbia coming in below the average. All states in the East South Central and West South Central divisions had rates below the national average.
• California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and Washington contained over half of the total union members in the U.S., while accounting for only one-third of total employment nationally. 

Within the next couple of weeks, the 2018 update of state-specific union membership data will be posted on unionstats.com. These numbers are compiled from the monthly household Current Population Survey using BLS methods. The site provides private construction percentages broken down by state, as well as numbers for certain metropolitan areas. The 2017 membership percentages for construction are also available on the Merit Shop Scorecard and will be updated as soon as 2018 state industry breakdowns are available. Highlights of the updated state data will be published in Newsline.

Visit the BLS’ website to view the news release or the full report. Contact Brandon Ray, ABC National’s senior manager of state and local affairs, with questions regarding issues related to union membership nationally or in your region or state.