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Union Representation in Construction Up 0.6% from Last Year

January 27, 2017

Union representation in the construction industry (covering all occupations) rose from 14.0% in 2015 to 14.6% in 2016, according to an annual report issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (“BLS”) January 26.  The number of union-represented employees in the industry also rose over the year, from 992,000 to 1,095,000, while the total number of workers in the industry rose from 7,109,000 to 7,488,000.  Union membership in the industry similarly increased, from 13.2% to 13.9%.

Among workers in construction and extraction occupations, whether employed in the construction industry or another industry, union representation and membership increased by an even greater margin in 2016.  Representation rose from 18.3% to 19.4%, and membership rose from 17.2% to 18.4%.  The total number of workers in such occupations increased from 6,193,000 to 6,387,000.

Over the past decade, the percentage of union-represented employees in the industry has gone up and down, starting at 13.6% in 2006 and peaking at 16.2% in 2008, as shown in the graph below.

BLS reports that the construction industry continues to be among the private industries with the highest rates of union membership.  The industry’s 13.9% union membership is outpaced only by the utilities (21.5%), transportation and warehousing (18.4%), and telecommunications (14.6%) industries. Union membership across all private-sector industries dropped to just 6.4% in 2016, down from 6.7% the year before. 

The report also addresses earnings.  According to BLS, the median weekly earnings of all employees in the construction industry rose from $784 to $822 in 2016.  Union-represented workers’ earnings were 47% higher than nonunion workers’ earnings in the industry, but they rose at a slightly lower rate over the year.  Union-represented workers’ weekly earnings increased about 4.8% to $1,146 from $1,093, while nonunion workers’ increased about 5% to $780 from $743. 

The median weekly earnings for workers employed in construction and extraction occupations across industries rose from $749 to $784 in 2016.  Here, union-represented workers’ weekly earnings rose significantly more than nonunion workers’ over the year, increasing about 7.3% from $1,064 to $1,142, as compared to nonunion workers’ earnings, which increased about 3.6% from $695 to $719.

Assessments of BLS industry data should consider that such data cover surveyed employees at all levels and classifications, including personnel that are not typically organized, such as office staff.  The data also cover all sectors of the industry, including residential construction.

For the full report from BLS, click here.  For access to historical data on these topics, click here.

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