LOS ANGELES, Sept. 6 (Xinhua) -- The recession is finally taking its toll on national, state and local unionization rates, thus worsening the unemployment situation in the United States, a study finds.
Following an uptick last year, unionization rates fell between July 1, 2009, and June 30, 2010, by just more than half a percentage point in California and by a full percentage point in the five-county Los Angeles metropolitan area, according to the study by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
The findings in the report are based on labor figures in the U. S. Current Population Survey, conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S Census Bureau. The UCLA report tracks year-to-year changes in unionization for the nation including California and the Los Angeles metropolitan area.
The report found that unionization rates also dipped nationally, but by a smaller margin than in the Los Angeles metro area and the state. The overall unionization rate in the U.S. was 12.1 percent, down from 12.4 percent the previous year.
The proportion of the workforce that is unionized now stands at 16.5 percent in Los Angeles and 17.6 percent in California. With gains made by unions in 2008 and 2009 now wiped out, Los Angeles and California unionization rates have returned to their 2007's levels. Unionization rates had been climbing steadily since 2007, after having been relatively flat for a decade.
Especially heavily hit this year was the nation's private sector, which for the first time ever employed fewer union members than the public sector. The public sector has long boasted a larger concentration of union members, but because the private sector is so much larger, the absolute number of union members in the private sector had always exceeded that in the public sector.
The number of union workers employed in the private sector fell from approximately 7.91 million in 2008 to 7.19 million in 2009, while the number of public-sector union workers dropped from 7.86 million to 7.76 million.
"Given the duration and depth of the recession, it was inevitable that union jobs would be hit," said Lauren Appelbaum, the report's lead author and director of research at UCLA's Institute for Research on Labor and Employment (IRLE).
"Jobs are continuing to disappear, and unionized jobs continue to disappear along with them."
Even with the losses, the Los Angeles metro area accounts for nearly half of the union members in California, which is the most heavily unionized state in the nation, according to the study released on Labor Day, Sept. 6.
"In recent years, unions in Los Angeles have been at the head of the pack, and they've been having successes that unions are not having elsewhere," said IRLE director Christopher C. Tilly, a professor of urban planning at the UCLA School of Public Affairs. "That makes Los Angeles an important laboratory for unions and for labor-watchers."
"These figures are less a reflection on how well the public sector is doing than a testament to how many jobs have been lost in the private sector," Appelbaum said.
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