State Unionism Rankings: Do Highly Unionized States have Higher Unemployment?

Union employment in the U.S. continued to shrink this past year.  Nationwide union participation stands at 12.3% which is a slight decline from 2008.

The BLS 2009 Annual Union Affiliation by Statesurvey was recently published.  It has brought increased attention to the union movement. Union policy will further be in the spotlight this week as the Senate wrestles with the nomination of Craig Becker, a clearly pro-union candidate, to the National Labor Review Board.  See GOP’s Senate Gain Clouds Prospect of Obama’s Labor Board Nominee.  In view of this upcoming debate, we thought it would be helpful to take a deeper look at state unionization and employment.

Let’s take a look at state unionization.

New York is the most unionized state in the nation with 27.2% of its population working for a union.  More than 1 in four workers are represented by a union in New York.  Hawaii at 24.3% is the second most unionized state at 24.3%, followed by Alaska at 23.6%.  Washington, Michigan, and New Jersey are heavily unionized states with about 20% union participation rates.

The least unionized state is North Carolina at 4.4%.  Only one in 23 workers in North Carolina are represented by a union, a sharp difference as compared to New York.  Additional states with low union participation rates are Arkansas at 5.0%, Virginia at 5.4%, South Carolina at 5.4% and Georgia at 5.9%

Twenty seven states had decreased union participation in 2009 as compared with 2008.  States with low union participation rates generally became less so in 2009 and those states with union growth were primarily already highly unionized.  There are 22 states with right to work laws in the U.S.  Right to work laws generally do not require employees to pay fees or join a union even if voted in.

A look at union participation and unemployment shows states with high union participation rates are closely associated with higher unemployment.

The five Worst States for Employment in 2009 were Michigan, Rhode Island, Nevada, California and South Carolina.  All but South Carolina are highly unionized states.  The Worst States for Employment in 2009 generally were highly unionized states.

Worst States for Employment and Union Participation



The Best States for Employment in 2009 were North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Oklahoma and Kansas. All but Iowa have unionparticipation rates below the U.S. average and would be classified asstates with low unionization.  If you are looking for a job, look at states with low unionization.  They tend to have less unemployment. See  Best and Worst States for Jobs: Will Jobs Improve in 2010 for the rankings of all states by employment.  The list of Best States for Employment and Union Participation follows:

Best States for Employment and Union Participation

The list of Unionism by State follows:

Unionism by State

Union membership has been in a long term decline since 1983 when BLS first started measuring it in a consistent way.  Union participation was 20.1% of the working population in 1983.  It is now approximately 40% lower at 12.3%.  For the first time in 2009, the majority of union members now work for the government and not for private, for profit entities.  These state workers are on average paid significantly more than private industry.  Making it easier for government workers to unionize will only push labor costs higher and cost the taxpayers more.  Political leaders should be trying to keep these costs in check. (The average federal worker’s pay is $71,206 as compared to $40,331 in the private sector and is growing above inflation rates) The Obama administration’s labor policy approach creates a conflict with its responsibilities to protect the taxpayer. Increased unionization will increase our cost of government.  If the Obama administration is serious about job creation and deficit control, it may want to reconsider this approach.  Unions and job creation generally do not have a positive correlation.  Watch the news this week as it relates to Craig Becker.  It will have implications for jobs and deficits.

One Year Of Obama and Stimulus: Job Openings down 5.48% , Unemployment Up to 10%

It has been one year since President Obama took office and announced a stimulus bill that was to improve jobs.  The data suggests that the job market continued to deteriorate this past year.  Unemployment is up to 10% from 7.4%.  Job Openings are down 5.48%

Job Openings, as measured on, have not improved from one year ago.  Nationwide, job openings at January 31, 2010 were 5.48% lower than January 29, 2009.  Total job openings stand at 222,189 as compared to 235,059 last year, a decrease of 12,870.  37 States have lower job openings as compared to last year.



Best and Worst States has been tracking Job Openings by State for the past year and has reported on movements.  For some of our previouslinks see November 2009, Job Stimulus Not Working  , Job Openings September 2009 and last year’s Best and Worst States for Job Openings January 2009.  While the drops early in the year have appeared to stabilize, the level of job openings is not robust enough to suggest significant improvements in employment soon.

The Best State for Job Openings is Indiana as measured by growth.  Indiana had the largest gain in job openings, 887, up 17.4% from a year ago. Best States for Jobs also were Kentucky, Ohio and TennesseeFlorida and Ohio were the best large states for job openings.  They were the only 2 states of the Top Ten Employment States to show increases in openings.  13 States had increases in job openings from a year ago.

The Worst State for Jobs was California.  It has 3,667 less job openings from a year ago, a decrease of 14.18%.  California also has the fourth worst employment rate in the nation.  Unemployment in California is now at 12.4%, up 3.7% from a year ago.  California is struggling on many fronts and an increasing jobless population will not help it turn around.  For more on California see California Jobs Shrinking

Additional Worst States for Jobs  are Texas, Illinois,Massachusetts and Arizona.  They each had large job opening losses and double digit declines in percentage terms.

Another measure of job openings, the Conference Board’s Help Wanted On-Line Data Series is also indicating year over year decreases in job openings. The Conference Board Data for 2009 annual average job openings stands at 3,357,000, 1.1million below the 4,481,000 annual average for 2008.  More importantly their average job opening number for 2009 is 2.4 million below the 2007 average job opening number.  These are not good numbers.  On an encouraging note,the Conference Board reported positive improvement in job openings in New York, Washington, Connecticut, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Delaware and New Jersey.

All 50 states saw their unemployment rates increase in 2009.  See Unemployment by State 2009 for the entire 2009 list and unemployment changes from a year ago. Job openings must increase significantly nationwide if unemployment is to improve to acceptable levels. It is going to take some time for this to occur.


Job Openings by State January 2010


Largest State
California Continues to
Show Shrinking Job Openings

Texas Jobs Not Growing

Florida Shows Small Increase

Illinois Jobs Down 10.64%

37 States Have
Fewer Job Openings

2 of 10 Largest States
Show Small Increase

Indiana Best State for Job Opening Growth

Job Openings Do Not Suggest
Employment Improvements

Top States for Jobs September 2009

The Bureau of Labor Statistics BLS released the September 2009 List of State Unemployment last week.  23 States saw unemployment rise from August, 19 saw decreases and 8 were unchanged.  The US Unemployment rate for September 2009 was 9.8%.

New York was the Worst State for Jobs in September with a loss of 81,700 jobs.


Texas (-44,700), California (-39,300), Wisconsin(-21,700), and Michigan (-21,500) rounded out the 5 Worst States
Jobs in September. Michigan continues as the Worst State for Employment with a staggering 15.3%
unemployment rate.
Nevada, Alabama, Oregon and West Virginia are also in the 5 Worst States for Employment.
California is not far behind
as a worst state for jobs. See our post on California Jobs Shrinking


The Best State for Jobs in September 2009 was Indiana which gained 4,400 jobs. The Best State for Employment
was North Dakota with a 4.2% unemployment rate. Only 3 other states qualified as Best States for Jobs in September.
They were New Mexico (+3,700), Nevada (+2,700), and Utah (+2,500). Go to our lastest
September list of job openings by state
for more on where the job openingsAll states and the District of Columbia recorded statistically significant increases in their jobless rates on a year on year basis.
Michigan had the largest increase +6.4%.  Nevada, 6.0% and Alabama at 5.3% also had the highest increases in the U.S.
North Dakota had the smallest increase at +.9%.  The Year on Year change of Unemployment for all 50 States is below.


Rank State Sep-08 Sep-09 Change
1 NORTH DAKOTA 3.3 4.2 0.9
2 NEBRASKA 3.4 4.9 1.5
3 SOUTH DAKOTA 3.2 4.8 1.6
4 ALASKA 6.7 8.4 1.7
5 LOUISIANA 5.6 7.4 1.8
5 MISSISSIPPI 7.4 9.2 1.8
7 ARKANSAS 5.2 7.1 1.9
7 MINNESOTA 5.4 7.3 1.9
7 VERMONT 4.8 6.7 1.9
10 COLORADO 5 7 2
10 MONTANA 4.7 6.7 2
12 KANSAS 4.6 6.9 2.3
13 CONNECTICUT 6 8.4 2.4
14 IOWA 4.2 6.7 2.5
15 MARYLAND 4.6 7.2 2.6
15 VIRGINIA 4.1 6.7 2.6
17 OKLAHOMA 4 6.7 2.7
18 HAWAII 4.4 7.2 2.8
18 UTAH 3.4 6.2 2.8
20 MAINE 5.6 8.5 2.9
21 ARIZONA 6 9.1 3.1
21 DELAWARE 5.2 8.3 3.1
21 NEW YORK 5.8 8.9 3.1
21 TEXAS 5.1 8.2 3.1
25 MISSOURI 6.3 9.5 3.2
25 PENNSYLVANIA 5.6 8.8 3.2
27 NEW HAMPSHIRE 3.9 7.2 3.3
27 NEW MEXICO 4.4 7.7 3.3
27 OHIO 6.8 10.1 3.3
30 IDAHO 5.4 8.8 3.4
31 GEORGIA 6.6 10.1 3.5
31 INDIANA 6.1 9.6 3.5
33 TENNESSEE 6.9 10.5 3.6
33 WISCONSIN 4.7 8.3 3.6
33 WYOMING 3.2 6.8 3.6
36 MASSACHUSETTS 5.6 9.3 3.7
37 ILLINOIS 6.7 10.5 3.8
37 WASHINGTON 5.5 9.3 3.8
39 DC 7.4 11.4 4
39 KENTUCKY 6.9 10.9 4
39 NEW JERSEY 5.8 9.8 4
39 NORTH CAROLINA 6.8 10.8 4
43 SOUTH CAROLINA 7.5 11.6 4.1
44 FLORIDA 6.7 11 4.3
45 CALIFORNIA 7.8 12.2 4.4
46 RHODE ISLAND 8.5 13 4.5
47 WEST VIRGINIA 4.3 8.9 4.6
48 OREGON 6.8 11.5 4.7
49 ALABAMA 5.4 10.7 5.3
50 NEVADA 7.3 13.3 6
51 MICHIGAN 8.9 15.3 6.4

NY Jobs: Where are they? Will they come back?

The New York State Labor department today released its August 2009 NY Job numbersNY Jobs are scarce and NY Unemployment reached its highest level since May 1993.  Statewide unemployment reached 9.0% up from 5.7% a year ago.

New York City Unemployment is more of a problem for the New York.  NYC Unemployment reached 10.3% in August up from 6% a year ago.  September will be worse as September nationwide unemployment has already been reported and has increased again. This is a real problem for the NY State government since the NYC market is the real engine for tax revenues.  With a huge deficit the state needs a vibrant NYC job market.

The chart from the NYSLD follows:

Unemployment Rates* (seasonally adjusted)

August 2009* July 2009 August 2008
New York State 9.0 8.6 5.7
United States 9.7 9.4 6.2
New York City 10.3 9.5 5.9
NYS, excluding NYC 8.0 7.9 5.5
*Data are preliminary and subject to change.

We have reported for some time the issues in NY and they appear to be getting worse.  New York is now a Worst State for Jobs.

Employers look at many factors when creating jobs.  Cost of living, taxation, regulatory environment are just a few.

NY and particularly NYC has one of the highest cost of livings in the country.  See our previous Cost of Living by State

NYC has one of  highest marginal tax rates in the nation.  (See Tax Freedom Day by State  and State Individual Tax Rates )

The NY State Government is raising taxes in all types of areas and increasing regulatory costs for businesses. See States Raising Taxes

These facts suggest NY will have a tough job market for the foreseeable future.  If you are looking for a job, NY will suffer for a while.  See how NY Job Openings rank nationwide at Best States for Job Openings

What will its state leaders do to make it more competitive?  High Cost, High Taxes and Lots of Regulation does not attract new business or jobs.  How can state leaders say NY is a business friendly state? Comments?