New Jersey continued its long, slow decline in union membership last year, dropping a 10th of a percentage point to a rate of 16 percent.

That's the lowest rate since 1989, when the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking union membership at the state level.

Since corporations generally view unions as another cost and potential disruption to their operations, they generally prefer to locate where they are less likely to be afflicted by them. So New Jersey also is inching toward a more favorable business climate.

But the state remains well above the national share of wage and salary workers who are members of unions, which is 11.3 percent. At its current rate of union-membership reduction, New Jersey will take at least another decade or two to reach parity with the U.S. union rate.

There were 611,000 union members in New Jersey last year and another 21,000 covered by an employee association or contract but not members themselves.

The BLS doesn't track at the state level how many are government employees as opposed to private business workers, but nationwide, the rate of union membership for government was five times higher than for private sector workers last year - 35.3 percent for government vs. 6.7 percent for business.

New Jersey has the sixth-highest rate of union membership among the 48 continental states.

Most of its competitors for new business have lower to much lower rates of union membership.

In Pennsylvania, 12.7 percent of workers were union members last year, down from 13.5 percent in 2012. Delaware's rate was 10.3 percent.

The southern states that have succeeded wildly at drawing corporate investment the past two decades have low rates of union membership: North Carolina 3 percent, South Carolina 3.7 percent, Tennessee 6.1 percent, and Virginia 5 percent.

New Jersey has about three times as many union members as Georgia, the BLS says, despite having 144,000 fewer wage and salary employees overall.

The one neighbor New Jersey should always be able to out-compete, of course, is New York, which continues to lead the nation with a 24.4 percent union membership rate. That's actually up from 23.2 in 2012.

The BLS provides a big-state comparison: New York had four times as many union members last year as Texas, "despite having 2.7 million fewer wage and salary employees statewide."

This year New York has been running commercials on TV business news channels boasting how friendly the state has become to new business and promising to forgo tax collections from new businesses for 10 years.

Given that New York is the paradigm of a union state and that the nonpartisan Tax Foundation ranks it worst in the nation for business tax climate, I wonder just how many businesses will be fooled.

Faster wireless

AT&T last year upgraded Atlantic City, the South Jersey shore and Vineland markets to its fastest wireless network, 4G LTE.

The nation's second largest wireless provider said this month that it spent nearly $2 billion in New Jersey alone from 2011 through 2013, giving its wireless and wired networks more speed, reliability and coverage.

The 450 network upgrades in New Jersey included new cell sites, added capacity and new broadband network connections.

AT&T said it is deploying 4G LTE ahead of schedule and now plans to be substantially finished by summer.

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