Economic snapshot | Unions and Labor Standards

Twenty years of declining union coverage

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A weekly presentation of downloadable charts and short analyses designed to graphically illustrate important economic issues. Updated every Wednesday.

Snapshot for May 5, 1999

Twenty years of declining union coverage

The number of union members rose for the first time in five years, increasing from 16.1 million in 1997 to 16.2 million in 1998. Union membership peaked in 1979, when 20.2 million workers (23.8% of the workforce) was unionized, but has dropped substantially since then. Despite the recent incremental rise in the absolute number of union members, the figure shows that the overall share of unionized workers continued its twenty-year decline last year, dropping from 14.1% of the workforce in 1997 to 13.9% in 1998.

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Sources: The State of Working America 1998-99 and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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