BLS Data Show Little Change in Union Representation or Weekly Earnings in Construction Industry

February 8, 2018

Union representation in the construction industry (covering all occupations) rose very slightly in 2017, from 14.6 percent to 14.7 percent, according to an annual report recently issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (“BLS”).  Union membership in the industry similarly increased over the year, from 13.9 percent to 14 percent.  The total number of workers in the industry rose from 7,488,000 to 7,844,000. 

Among workers in construction and extraction occupations, whether employed in the construction industry or another industry, union representation and membership in 2017 increased by a modestly greater margin.  Representation rose from 19.4 percent to 20.2 percent, and membership rose from 18.4 percent to 19.3 percent.  The total number of workers in such occupations increased from 6,387,000 to 6,529,000.

The construction industry continues to be among the private industries with the highest rates of union membership.  The industry’s 14 percent union membership in 2017 was outpaced only by the utilities (23 percent), transportation and warehousing (17.3 percent), and telecommunications (16.1 percent) industries.  Union membership across all private-sector industries edged up by 0.1 percentage point in 2017 to 6.5 percent, BLS reports.  This remains modestly lower than the 6.7 percent in 2015 and substantially lower than the 34.4 percent of 2017 workers in the public sector.

The report also addresses earnings.  According to BLS, the median weekly earnings of all employees in the construction industry rose from $822 to $840 in 2017.  Union-represented workers continue to earn substantially more – nearly 45 percent more – than their nonunion counterparts, but the gap is slowly narrowing, as nonunion workers’ pay has been rising at a higher rate than union-represented workers’ pay.  The median weekly earnings of union-represented workers in the industry increased from $1,146 to $1,155 – less than 1 percent – in 2017, while those of nonunion workers increased from $780 to $797 – over 2 percent.  It is worth noting that BLS data showed increases of about 4.8 percent for union-represented workers in the industry and about 5 percent for nonunion workers last year.

The median weekly earnings for workers employed in construction and extraction occupations across industries rose from $784 to $796.  According to BLS data, nonunion workers’ pay increased about 2.2 percent from $719 per week to $735 over the year, while union-represented workers’ pay actually declined nearly 1.6 percent from $1,142 to $1,124.

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 employees of home builders and home improvement firms.

For access to additional historical data on these and related topics, click here.

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