New Data Shows Public Unions Dominate In California

The recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report on Union Membership in 2001 showed American abor unions gaining 17,000 members last year. The small gain reflected a loss of 35,000 members on private payrolls, masked by a gain of 52,000 in the public sector. That report showed unions in California gaining 100,000 members.

A detailed analysis of data from the Current Population Survey, the same information on which the BLS report is based, shows that California unions gained closer to 96,500 members, approximately 4,800 on private payrolls and 91,700 on public.

According to the CPS data, California didn't suffer the employment losses experienced in other areas of the country. Private payrolls grew by 77,600 while public employment increased by 115,200. Union membership increased in the private sector by 4,900 bringing total union membership to 1,185,100. Union market share in the private sector remained steady at 9.7 percent in 2001. In the public sector, union membership increased by 91,700 bringing total membership to 1,206,600. As a result union density in California's public sector increased from 50.3 percent in 2000 to 51.7 percent in 2001.

"This sharp increase in public sector union membership in California is yet another indication that the public sector is the growth industry for labor unions," said David Denholm, president of the Public Service Research Foundation in commenting on the detailed analysis.

"Even though only one in about every six and a half jobs are in the public sector, more than fifty percent of all union members in the Golden State are public employees. This can only accelerate the trend toward union political influence being targeted at increases in the size and cost of government," Denholm concluded.

Changes in Employment and Union Membership 2000 - 2001

Employment (Numbers in thousands)


 -26- 205+ 179

Union Members (Numbers in thousands)


Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics release of January 17, 2002


Employment (Numbers in thousands)


Union Members (Numbers in thousands)


Source: Current Population Survey

Technical Note: The Current Population Survey has a sample size of 50,000. The data is regarded as very accurate but it is survey data and subject to the statistical and sampling limitations of all survey data.

This report was prepared by the Public Service Research Foundation, Vienna, Virginia. For further information please call 703-242-3575.