Union membership rose slightly in 2011

The number of unionized workers in America increased by about 50,000 to nearly 14.8 million workers in 2011, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics survey released today, the Associated Press reported.

Unions added 110,000 members in the private sector, mostly in construction, healthcare services, retail trade, primary metals and fabricated metal products, hospitals and transportation, according to the Los Angeles Times. However, those gains were offset by the departure of about 61,000 government employees who lost their jobs, according to the AP.

"Good union jobs are beginning to come back despite an unprecedented volley of partisan political attacks on workers' rights and the continuing insecurity of our economic crisis,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a statement, according to the LA Times.

While membership rolls grew, the percentage of union members in the overall workforce declined slightly, from 11.9 percent in 2010 to 11.8 percent in 2011, Bloomberg News reported.

According to the AP:

Union membership has declined steadily from its peak of about a third of all workers in the 1950s, and about 20 percent in 1983. The losses have been especially steep in private industry with the loss of manufacturing jobs that traditionally were heavily unionized.

New York’s union membership rate of 24 percent was the highest in the country, while North Carolina was the least unionized state, with only 2.9 percent of workers belonging to a union, Bloomberg News reported.

The BLS report noted that the average weekly earnings of union workers in 2011 was $938 while non-union workers earned $729, according to Bloomberg News.

More from GlobalPost: Right to work law passed in Indiana over union dues

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