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Private Sector Unions Add Members as Jobs Return

Associated Press (01/27/12) Sam Hananel

Union membership grew slightly in 2011, providing some hope to labor leaders that a period of steep declines has finally bottomed out. The number of unionized workers increased by approximately 50,000 to nearly 14.8 million members in 2011, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Jan. 27. That increase comes after unions lost nearly 1.4 million members over the previous two years.

Florida saw the largest increase in union members last year, up 68,000, followed by Michigan, a 44,000 increase as auto industry employment surged. Union membership fell most sharply in New York, down 53,000. New York remains the most heavily unionized state at 24%, while North Carolina has the lowest union rate at 2.9%. Among full-time wage and salary workers, the median weekly earnings of union members were $938, compared with $729 for nonunion workers.