Unionization and Economic Growth

Posted: December 16, 2012 in analysis

Today we look at the following article on RedState, which purports to show that

…Without cherry-picking data as union bosses must in order to defend forced unionism, total seasonally adjusted non-farm employment growth shows a huge advantage for residents of right to work states.

The actual data presented, however, are the employment growth over 20 years for all right to work states, but only a few union-friendly states.

This, particularly considering that the introduction explicitly calls out cherry-picking, triggered my sensors.  So, let’s see what happens if we look at data for all states.

First, I have to find the data used to create this chart.  It took some rummaging on the BLS website, but I finally found numbers that almost, but not quite, recreate the numbers on the chart in the original article.  My version of the chart is below.


As you can see, it looks essentially like the version in the article, though because I am using slightly different data, the percentages vary by a point or two.

Now, I’d like to present a different chart, this time comparing Ohio to other union-friendly states.


Here is where the cherry picking comes in.  Ohio job growth isn’t terrible because it is union friendly, it’s terrible because it’s terrible.  Nearly everyone does better than Ohio regardless of their labor policy.

Now, there is potentially something to be said that right-to-work states have a greater gain over the last 20 years than union friendly states do.  But that wasn’t the argument; Jason hart asserted a “huge advantage” for right-to-work states, and presented evidence that was built around comparing to the second-worst performing state of any kind.

Presenting the data like that, particularly in the same sentence as calling out others for cherry-picking data, is disingenuous at best.

  1. Ethan says:

    Interesante.. I like your methodology 🙂 I noticed that you spaced your graph intervals the same but the scale is different – 20% increments for the right to work states vs 15% increments for the pro union ones. If someone wasn’t careful to look at the scale, they could think the “pro” states are lagging by less than they actually are.

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