Membership in America’s building trades unions increased by almost 100,000 members in 2007, reflecting the first overall increase in membership in close to a decade, reported the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Of private sector industries with high unionization rates, construction was third with 13.9 percent, about 1.19 million workers. (The transportation and utility industry was first with a 22.1 percent rate, followed by telecommunications at a 19.7 percent rate) In 2006, the construction industry had a 13 percent unionization rate (1.09 million workers).

Those represented by unions in the construction industry but were not actual members of unions numbered 1.23 million last year, 14.4 percent, compared to a 13.6 percent rate 2006 and 1.15 million workers represented.

“This increase in membership and union market share is a direct result of the aggressive marketing, organizing and recruitment efforts undertaken by our affiliated unions,” said Mark H. Ayers, president of the Building & Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO. “And this is just the beginning.”

Overall, the number of workers belonging to a union in 2007 rose by 311,000 to 15.7 million, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. Union members accounted for 12.1 percent of employed wage and salary workers, essentially unchanged from 12 percent in 2006. In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent.

Some highlights from the 2007 data are:

  • Workers in the public sector had a union membership rate nearly five times that of private sector employees. (Public sector employees include teachers, police officers and firefighters.)
  • Education, training and library occupations had the highest unionization rate among all occupations, at 37.2 percent, followed closely by protective service occupations at 35.2 percent.
  • Among demographic groups, the union membership rate was highest for black men and lowest for Hispanic women.
  • Wage and salary workers ages 45 to 54 (15.7 percent) and ages 55 to 64 (16.1 percent) were more likely to be union members than were workers ages 16 to 24 (4.8 percent).