Labor Union Membership Falls to New Lows

By at 20 January, 2023, 12:19 pm

by Raymond J. Keating –

If you’re seeking an example of the power of special interests in politics, look no further than labor unions. While labor union membership continues to fall – as illustrated by the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) – the political influence of unions persists.

The BLS reported that labor union membership among wage and salaried workers in 2022 fell to 10.1 percent. That was down from 10.3 percent in 2021.

The BLS reported: “The 2022 unionization rate (10.1 percent) is the lowest on record. In 1983, the first year where comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent and there were 17.7 million union workers.” The website offers data going back a bit further, with the unionization rate registering 24 percent in 1973.

In the private sector, the unionization rate came in at 6.0 percent in 2022, which was down from 6.1 percent in 2021.

The private sector rate, according to, was 16.5 percent in 1983 and 24.2 percent in 1973. The 2022 rate of 6.0 percent was the lowest on record.

Labor union membership is strongest among government workers, with the unionization rate in the public sector coming in at 33.1 percent in 2022, down from 33.9 percent in 2021.

Interestingly, the 2022 public sector rate of 33.1 percent was the lowest since 1977, again, according to

Outsized “Influence”

Despite these dramatic declines, labor unions use their resources – both money and manpower – to push a political agenda that mainly focuses on expanded government and more government control, via taxes and regulations, over the private sector. They also want rules that strongly favor union organizing (via the PRO Act and other efforts), and are resolute in the efforts to put the breaks on self-employment and small business opportunity by pushing harmful regulations on how independent contractors are governed and expanding the joint employer standard.

By the way, if you’ve ever wondered why so many anti-entrepreneur, anti-business policy measures start in New York and California, the following, as reported by the BLS, no doubt comes into play:

“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). However, these states accounted for about 17 percent of wage and salary employment nationally.”

Indeed, New York and California have the highest and fourth highest unionization rates, respectively, among the 50 states.

Raymond J. Keating is chief economist for the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council. His latest book is The Weekly Economist: 52 Quick Reads to Help You Think Like an Economist.


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