North Carolina’s union membership rate is the lowest in the country

North Carolina has the lowest union membership rate in the country.

According to a Labor Department report released last week, 1.9 percent of wage and salary workers in North Carolina were members of unions last year, down from 3 percent in 2013.

At the national level, the union membership rate was 11.1 percent in 2014, down 0.2 percent from the year before. At 24.6 percent, New York had the highest union membership rate. After North Carolina, the next lowest rate was South Carolina with 2.2 percent.

Of the states with union membership rates of 5 percent or less in 2013 -- seven of the 11 were in the South -- the Carolinas experienced the biggest drops in terms of percentage points in 2014. From 2013 to 2014, North Carolina lost 41,000 union members and South Carolina lost 28,000.

As is the case nationwide, the extra-slow recovery has given employers the upper hand in the labor market where there are more workers than jobs available for them. Another factor is the shifting out of hightly unionized industries into ones where unionization is more difficult, said Mike Walden, an economics professor at N.C. State University.

“The shift out of manufacturing employment into service employment came at a slightly later date in the Southeast, particularly in North Carolina and South Carolina ... and that may be showing up in the data,” Walden said.

Nationwide, union membership has fallen by about half since 1980, when 20.1 percent of workers were members of a union. Union membership in the public sector is about five times higher than that of private sector workers.