New York Accounts for 90 Percent of Union Membership Growth
posted at 2:01 pm on February 11, 2014 by Mike Antonucci
The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its annual survey of union membership last month, and the 2013 numbers were not as bad as many thought. The overall union membership rate remained at 11.3 percent (technically, it fell from 11.26% to 11.25%), and unions grew by 162,000 members to 14,528,000.
The Associated Press, Wall Street Journal and even the AFL-CIO focused on the gains in the private sector that were partially offset by losses in the public sector. Regional press reports highlighted state membership rates, but everyone failed to put the two together.
In 2013, almost 90 percent of union membership growth came from one state: New York.
According to BLS, New York added 213,000 jobs in 2013 and 145,000 union members – an astonishing marginal unionization rate of 68.1 percent. The entire rest of the nation added 1,320,000 jobs and 17,000 union members – a marginal unionization rate of 1.3 percent.
The BLS does not disaggregate its state data into public and private sectors, and I was unable to find it myself while digging through the Current Population Survey. However, last month the New York State Department of Labor released statistics that between December 2012 and December 2013 the state added only 110,000 private sector jobs and lost 13,000 public sector jobs.
Anomalies are normal when agencies compute statistics from different sources, but the New York numbers, coupled with the report of unexpected union membership gains in places like Michigan and Wisconsin, require at least a reexamination of this year’s BLS figures.