February 3, 2021

In 2020  14.3 million workers belonged to a union.  Of those 7.1 million were in the public sector compared to 7.2 million in the private sector.  However, the union membership rate for public sector workers at 34.8% was substantially higher than the rate for the private sector which was 6.3%.

Among occupational groups the highest unionization rates were in protective service organizations which includes police officers and firefighters at 36.6% followed closely by workers in education, training, and library occupations at 35.9% .

The lowest unionization rates were in farming, fishing and forestry occupations (2.6%) , sales and related occupations (3.2%), computer and math (3.8%), food preparation and serving-related occupations (3.4%).

Note that union membership rose in virtually every occupation in 2020.  That was because the pandemic-triggered recession caused a big drop in largely non-union private sector jobs, while union member jobs in the public sector were hit far less hard.  Thus, the  recession caused the percentage of union jobs to increase in almost every occupation in 2020.

Stephen Sifer


Charleston, S.C.