The percentage of Virginia employees who are members of unions declined substantially from 2021 to 2022, according to new federal data, and remains less than half the rate nationally.
A total of 176,000 Virginians were union members in 2021, representing 4.8 percent of the overall workforce, but those figures declined to 146,000 and 3.7 percent, respectively, in new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The decline was more pronounced than the relatively small percentage dropoff nationally. The national union-membership rate was 10.1 percent in 2022, down from 10.3 percent.
“The number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions, at 14.3 million in 2022, increased by 273,000, or 1.9 percent, from 2021,” federal officials said. “However, the total number of wage and salary workers grew by 5.3 million – mostly among non-union workers – or 3.9 percent. This disproportionately large increase in the number of total wage and salary employment compared with the increase in the number of union members led to a decrease in the union-membership rate.”
Some of that increase in non-union workers, resulting in the decline in the unionization rate, is due to the return to a sense of employment normalcy that began to creep back into the economy in 2021 and accelerated into 2022. Regardless, the 2022 rate of 10.1 percent is the lowest on record dating back to 1983, when the union-membership rate was 20.1 percent and there were 17.7 million union workers in a much smaller overall labor market.
Data on union membership are collected as part of the Current Population Survey, a monthly sample survey of about 60,000 eligible households that obtains information on employment and unemployment among the nation’s civilian non-institutional population age 16 and over.
Other information from the report:
• The union-membership rate of public-sector workers (33.1 percent) is more than five times the rate of 6 percent in the private sector.
• The highest unionization rates were among workers in protective-service occupations (34.6%) and in education, training and library occupations (33.7%).
• Men continued to have a higher union membership rate (10.5%) than women (9.6%), but the gap has narrowed considerably since 1983, when rates for men and women were 24.7 percent and 14.6 percent, respectively.
• Black workers remained more likely to be union members than any other race or ethnicity.
• Among states, Hawaii and New York had the highest union membership rates (21.9% and 20.7%, respectively), while South Carolina and North Carolina had the lowest (1.7% and 2.8%, respectively). Eleven states had union membership rates below 5 percent.
• In 2022, the union-membership rate continued to be highest in local government (38.8 percent), which employs many workers in heavily unionized occupations, such as police officers, firefighters and teachers.
• Private-sector industries with high unionization rates included utilities (19.6%), motion pictures and sound-recording industries (17.3%), and transportation and warehousing (14.5%). Low unionization rates occurred in insurance (1.2%), finance (1.3%), professional and technical services (1.3%), and food services and drinking places (1.4%).
• By age, workers ages 45 to 54 had the highest union-membership rate in 2022, at 12.6 percent. Younger workers – those ages 16 to 24 – had the lowest union-membership rate, at 4.4 percent.
• In 2022, the union-membership rate for full-time workers (11%) was double that for part-time workers (5.5%).
• In 2022, 30 percent of the 14.3 million union members lived in just two states (California at 2.6 million and New York at 1.7 million), states that collectively accounted for about 17 percent of employment nationally.