Organized labor’s share of the construction workforce increased last year, but only marginally, as the pandemic led to relatively larger job losses in nonunionized construction than in the union sector, new Bureau of Labor Statistics data show.
[View BLS release here. See Table 3 for construction workers data, Table 4 for construction weekly wage data.]
The bureau’s latest annual report on unions, released on Jan. 22, says that union members accounted for 12.7% of the total private construction workforce in 2020, up slightly from 12.6% the year before.
The figures apply to wage and salary workers in private-sector construction.
The 2019 level was the low point for construction unions over the past 11 years, BLS data show.
Since 2010, unions’ share of construction employment has hovered between 12.6% and a high of 14.1%, reached in 2013.
In 2020, as the coronavirus took hold, construction’s total wage and salary construction workforce fell by 523,000, or 6.3%, year over year.
Nonunion construction employment declined last year by 539,000, or 7.9%, compared with 2019.
By comparison, union construction membership dropped by 62,000 year over year, or 5.9%, according to BLS figures.
Although there was a sizable gap last year between union and nonunion construction workers’ pay—36.3%—nonunion workers’ earnings increased but union workers’ pay dipped, though barely.
BLS data show nonunion workers’ median weekly pay in 2020 was up 6%, to $920.
Union workers’ median pay edged downward by $3.00 compared with 2019, to $1,254 per week.
BLS also released figures for the broader category of workers represented by unions. That refers to those who report no union affiliation but whose jobs are covered by a union or employee-association contract.
In that category, workers represented by unions’ share of the workforce decreased last year, to 13.4%, from 13.6% in 2019.
For all employment categories, BLS said, union workers’ share of the workforce increased by to 10.8% in 2020, from 2019’s 10.3%.
The bureau also noted that in 1983—the first year for which comparable data are available—union members’ share of the overall workforce was 20.1%.