In the U.S., the first Monday of September is Labor Day (this year, September 3, 2018). It is recognized as a federal holiday and most government offices and private businesses are closed. Beginning in the late 19th century, as the trade union and labor movements grew in the U.S., trade unions proposed that a day be set aside to recognize and celebrate labor. By the time it became an official federal holiday in 1894, thirty states had already set aside a Labor Day. Below are some statistics about membership in U.S. labor unions that were released in January, 2018, by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).


Union membership (1983 vs. 2017)

Since 1983, the year the BLS began maintaining union membership statistics, the number of workers in unions has dropped from 20.1 percent of all workers to 10.7 percent and from 17.6 million employees to 14.8 million. Mirroring the overall growth in U.S. employment in 2017, membership in unions edged up by 262,000 in 2017.


Glossary | “Public sector” employees are those who work for federal, state and local governments and their agencies and entities. “Private sector” employees are those who work for private businesses and non-profit organizations that are not run by a government entity.


1983 | 17.6 million (20.1%) | Number (percentage) of all workers (private and public, combined), who belonged to a union in 1983, the first year data was available.

2017 | 14.8 million (10.7%) | Number (percentage) of all workers (private and public, combined), who belong to a union (as of December 2017).

Union membership today

7.2 million (34.4%) | Number (percentage) of public sector workers who belong to a union
7.6 million (6.5%) | Number (percentage) of private sector workers who belong to a union

Median weekly earnings

$829 | Non-union members
$1,041 | Union members

States with the highest and lowest rates of union membership

23.8% | New York State
2.6% | South Carolina

Public and private sector workforces with the highest percentages of unionized workforce 

34.7% | Protective service occupations
33.5% | Education, training, and library occupations

Public and private sector workforces with the lowest percentages of unionized workforce 

1.1% | Food services and drinking places
1.4% | Professional and technical services

Selected characteristics of union members

11.4% | Percent of male workers who are union members
10% | Percent of women workers who are union members

12.6% | Percent of African American workers who are union members
10.6% | Percent of white male workers who are union members
9.3% | Percent of Hispanic workers who are union members
8.9% | Percent of Asian American workers who are union members

13.5% | Percent of workers 55 to 64 years old who are union members
13.2% | Percent of workers 45 to 54 years old who are union members

States with the most union members

2.5 million | California
2.0 million | New York
800,000 | Illinois
700,000 | Michigan
700,000 | Pennsylvania
600,000 | New Jersey
600,000 | Ohio

Sources |  Bureau of Labor Statistics   Pew Research Center

Charts | PewResearch Center
Photo | GettyImages