Right to Work’s Job-Growth Edge: Almost 2-to-1

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A recently issued report shows that the 22 states* with Right to Work laws prohibiting forced union dues and fees on the books in 2009 enjoyed overall employment growth of 16.9% over the next decade. Meanwhile, aggregate employment growth languished in the 23 states that have chosen, up to now, not to adopt Right to Work laws. Their overall increase was just 9.6%, or about half the Right to Work average.

Early this month, the U.S. Labor Department issued new and revised data regarding the number of civilian household jobs (a broad measure that includes the self-employed and contractors as well as workers on employer payrolls) in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

In the aggregate, the data show employment growth of 12.5% from 2009 through 2019. But some states fared far better than others.

Among all 50 states, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Texas and Florida respectively rank #1 through #5 for percentage growth in the number of people employed over the past 10 years. All five are Right to Work states. Nine of the 10 top-ranking states over the same period have Right to Work laws.

Experience also indicates that job growth in a state that adopts a Right to Work law will typically rise relative to non-Right to Work states’ growth once the law takes effect.

Kentucky and Missouri offer a recent case study. Both states adopted Right to Work laws in early 2017, but only Kentucky’s statute took effect. Big Labor spent millions on a misinformation campaign in a successful bid to prevent the Show Me State’s law from being implemented.

From 2016, the last year before the two Right to Work laws were approved, through 2019, household employment in Right to Work Kentucky grew by nearly 72,000. Kentucky’s gain was 76% greater than Missouri’s in absolute terms, and well over double Missouri’s increase in percentage terms.

In a 2006 study, Rutgers University professor Leo Troy (since deceased) observed that “right-to-work laws are strongly correlated with faster growth in jobs and personal income.” Fourteen years later, the data continue to bear him out.

* Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, West Virginia and Kentucky passed and began implementing Right to Work laws between 2012 and 2017. They are excluded from the analysis in the first three paragraphs.

A black and white image of an eagle with its wings spread.
In 2006, top U.S. labor economist Leo Troy observed: “[R]ight-to-work laws are strongly correlated with faster growth in jobs and personal income.” Today his observation continues to be borne out by U.S. Labor Department and other data./Image: Rutgers University