Right to Work States Lead U.S. in Job Growth

In successfully pushing for passage of a Right to Work measure early this year, West Virginia Senate President Bill Cole (R-Mercer) suggested it would help boost job growth in his economically struggling state. Just-released U.S. Labor Department employment data reinforce his point. Image: wowktv.com

Early this week, the U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) issued its estimates for total annual 2015 private-sector payroll employment in the 50 states.  The BLS simultaneously released an array of other jobs data for 2015 and revised data for a number of previous years.  (See the link below for more information.)

For a decade and a half, the National Institute for Labor Relations Research has tracked BLS private-sector job growth trends, in Right to Work and in forced-unionism states, for the latest 10 years for which data are available. The first analysis (covering 1991-2001) and every subsequent analysis have shown a substantial advantage for Right to Work states.

For 2005-2015, this is once again the case.  Over the most recent decade for which BLS annual data are available, private-sector payroll employment in Right to Work states grew by 9.7%.  That increase is 68% greater than the one achieved by forced-unionism states as a group.

(Because Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin recently adopted Right to Work laws that took effect in 2012, 2013, and 2015, respectively, they are excluded from this analysis. Since the 26th Right to Work state, West Virginia, did not prohibit forced union dues and fees until this year, it is counted as a forced-unionism state here.)

The negative correlation between forced unionism and long-term employment growth is robust.  Eight of the 10 bottom-ranking states for 2005-2015 private-sector payroll job growth lack Right to Work laws.

For several years, the Institute has tracked the U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) data for total private-sector employment as well as the BLS data. Unlike BLS statistics, BEA statistics measure self-employment and contractual employment as well as payroll jobs.

BEA employment data for 2015 won’t be published until this fall.  But the BEA’s broader analysis of private-sector job growth for 2005-2015 also shows a wide Right to Work advantage.  From 2004 to 2014, BEA-reported private-sector employment grew by 15.9%, more than six percentage points higher than the average for forced-unionism states.  All of the top five states for 2004-2014 BEA-reported private-employment growth are Right to Work states.   Meanwhile, the eight bottom-ranking states for 2004-2014 BEA-reported job growth all lacked Right to Work laws at the time.  (Since they adopted Right to Work laws during the decade in question, Indiana and Michigan are once again excluded in the BEA data analysis. Since Wisconsin’s Right to Work law took effect only last year, it is counted as forced-unionism in this case.)

The BEA’s private-sector compensation and other personal income data for 2015 will be published late this month.  Shortly thereafter, the Committee will report on 2005-2015 private-sector compensation trends in Right to Work and forced-unionism states.

Employment, Hours, and Earnings from the Current …