The Bureau of Labor Statistics is out with its annual report on union membership. It’s down, once again: 11.9% of employees  in 2010 were union members, down from 12.3% in 2009. There were 14.7 million union members, significantly down from 1983, the first year for which comparable data is available, when there were 17.7 million. Note that the population of the United States in 1983 was 234 million as compared to 308 million in 2010.

In 2009, for the first time, a majority of employed union members were public employees. The trend continues: in 2010 there were 7.6 million public sector union members and 7.1 million private sector union members. Which leads me to ask some questions. Why does the union movement continue to oppose free trade measures so vociferously? What interest do public employees have in trade protectionism? Is the union opposition to free trade agreements an effort to somehow, some way, get back all those unionized auto and steel jobs that have disappeared in the last three decades?

Here’s another way to look at the data. I’ve ranked the top 12 states in population according to the percentage of employees who are union members, and then in the next column show the state’s percentage population increase between the 2000 and 2010 Censuses. Note that the big states with double-digit union membership have single-digit population (with the single, and near-miss, exception of California), while states with single-digit union membership have double-digit population growth. I know that correlation isn’t causation, but the numbers seem suggestive of something.


                                State                                % union               % pop. incr.

                                New York                               24.2                          2.1
                                California                               17.5                        10.0
                                New Jersey                            17.1                          4.5
                                Michigan                                16.5                        -   .6
                                Illinois                                     15.5                           3.3
                                Pennsylvania                         14.7                          3.4
                                Ohio                                           13.7                          1.6
                                UNITED STATES                   11.9                         9.7
                                Florida                                       5.6                        17.6
                                Texas                                          5.4                        20.6
                                Virginia                                     4.6                        13.0
                                Georgia                                     4.0                        18.3
                                North Carolina                      3.2                         18.5