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The Boston Globe

Business

Labor union membership holds steady

WASHINGTON — The nation’s union membership held steady at 11.3 percent last year, but losses among state and government workers suggest an ominous trend for the future of organized labor.

 There are now slightly more union members working for private firms than in government, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday. That reverses a five-year trend.

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Although the rate of membership among all workers didn’t budge, the overall number of union members grew slightly, rising about 162,000 to nearly 14.5 million.

Unions added about 282,000 new members in the private sector. But that was partly offset by the loss of 118,000 members in the public sector, as state and local governments and public school districts continued to face financial pressure from shrinking budgets.

For decades, the growth of union workers in government has helped compensate for steep losses in private industries. The public sector union membership rate of 35 percent remains more than five times higher than that of private sector workers, at 6.7 percent.

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