Jan 23, 2024 - Economy

Unionization rate dropped to new low in 2023

Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Axios Visuals

The share of American workers who are members of a union hit a new low in 2023 — it's now 1 in 10 — though the total number of unionized employees rose slightly.

Why it matters: Advocates say unions are a needed proponent of worker rights and compensation, while critics say unions throttle progress in the workplace.

Driving the news: 10% of the workforce was part of a union in 2023, down from 10.1% in 2022 and a high of 20.1% in 1983, the first year the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported comparable figures.

  • 14.4 million workers were union members in 2023, up from 14.3 million in 2022 — but the percentage fell because the workforce grew at a faster rate than union membership.

The big picture: The slight drop in the union membership rate came during a year of significant action for Big Labor, including:

  • Actors and writers unions getting new deals from Hollywood after bruising work stoppages.

Context: The drop also came despite approval of unions in 2022 reaching its highest point since 1965, according to Gallup.

Zoom in: 32.5% of public-sector workers were members of unions in 2023, compared with 6% of private workers.

  • Men were more likely to be members of a union than women, and Black workers were more likely to be members of a union than white, Asian or Hispanic workers.
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