WASHINGTON—The percentage of the workforce represented by unions fell slightly in 2014 to 11.1%, down from 11.3% the year before, continuing a trend of stagnation that suggests labor will have to work harder to rebound from its decades-long slide.
Figures released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics said union membership in the private sector in 2014 fell to a rate of 6.6% from 6.7% in 2013. While unions managed to collectively add members in sectors such as construction and leisure and hospitality, it wasn’t enough to keep pace with total private-sector employment, said John Schmitt, a senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
“It’s bad news for the labor movement because it shows that they are not able to rebound. Essentially, they look like they’re stuck,” said Gary Chaison, a professor of industrial relations at Clark University in Worcester, Mass.
The membership rate in the public sector—once a bright spot for union growth that has taken a hit in recent years amid the sector’s employment declines—rose slightly to 35.7% last year from 35.3% in 2013. The uptick occurred against a backdrop of declining public-sector employment and was driven by an increasing number of members at the local levels, primarily teachers.
Overall, 7.2 million employees in the public sector belonged to a union last year, compared with 7.4 million in the private sector.
The total number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions was 14.6 million people, little different from 2013, according to the federal figures.
Union membership rates declined over the year in 27 states and the District of Columbia, rose in 18 and were unchanged in five.
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