- The Biden administration has been pushing for a blue-collar boom, and that’s paying off.
- As white-collar jobs contract less, the labor market can rely on blue-collar jobs.
- But experts say these jobs should come with intense care, high wages and unions.
The recovery efforts from the pandemic have been impressive — and you can thank your local blue-collar workers for that.
It stands in stark contrast to the ever-withering tech industry. After pandemic-era tech jobs — and now frustration — more and more Americans are turning to blue-collar jobs for better pay and security. It’s no secret that some tech workers are leaving without a plan or branching out to create their own stuff.
The data shows that if you want security, a blue colored service is the way to go. In March 2023, retail job cuts and layoffs eased, and while they grew slightly in leisure and hospitality, workers in that sector still felt comfortable quitting at a higher than the economy’s average quit rate.
“Looking at this recovery as a whole, the president talks about wanting to build the bottom and middle class economy, and that’s certainly what we’re seeing when we look at this recovery from a job perspective,” said Heather Bushey, a member of the company. A White House Council of Economic Advisers insider said.
The Biden administration is targeting the blue-collar boom, and it may be better for the economy. When the AI is ready to work again
A white-collar job, a blue-collar job, can be more established. The main challenge is to get those jobs – those that used to be sufficient to support workers and their families – back into sustainable employment.
“It’s a pretty good indicator of the quality of jobs out there for the blue-collar economy, if you want to call it that, it looks like we’re going to have a nationwide strike,” Adam Hersh, senior economist at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, told Insider.
Manufacturing and blue collar jobs are coming back
Decades before the pandemic, employment in manufacturing was declining from peak employment levels seen in the late 1970s. The Biden administration is committed to changing that, investing billions in projects to bring manufacturing jobs stateside. It seems to be working so far.
“Not only has this recovery been much better than previous recoveries — we’ve added jobs faster and faster — but we’ve seen a much improved recovery in manufacturing, which has been a historic recovery,” Bushey said.
The country added 253,000 jobs in April, as the labor market looked set for a major cooling, and gains improved from months earlier. As Insider’s Madison Hoff reports, the labor market has been “remarkably resilient” — helping to keep the country afloat and prevent recession. Construction added 15,000 jobs, while that sector’s employment sits at a historic high, while manufacturing added 11,000 jobs – part of steady growth from 2020.
Still, blue-collar service jobs helped drive the jobs engine: Leisure and hospitality remained one of the economy’s strongest job creators, while lodging and food service and retail trade also did some of the heavy lifting, adding another 31,000 jobs.
The blue-collar boom will help alleviate some of the problems that have plagued the country and led to price hikes in some sectors. For example, the Biden administration has launched a major push to reduce reliance on China and bring semiconductor manufacturing to the U.S. to address pandemic-era semiconductor chip shortages, which have led to high prices and low supply for things like new cars and computers.
“We’re creating jobs by looking at where these pain points are in our economy and trying to say, ‘We need to do some of this here, it’s critical,'” Celeste Drake, deputy director of labor and economics at the National Economic Council, told Insider. We’re making it happen, and all employees play a vital role in that.”
4 ways to make good blue-collar jobs
There’s still a problem, but it’s looming above the blue collar: As manufacturing declines, so, too, have wages relative to the number of hours worked.
“One of the visuals that inspired the president long before he became president was this chart from 1980 showing the difference between wages paid to workers and productivity in corporations,” Bushey said. “These moved together for decades, then sometime around 1980, they stopped moving together and productivity started to outpace wages.”
Experts have suggested a few different ways to improve the quality of work that can control the economy. One, according to Bushey, is to ensure that markets are truly fair and competitive—reducing the power of employers to set wages, a so-called monopsony. Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Lena Khan previously told Insider that ending restrictive non-compete clauses in employment contracts that prevent employees from switching to or starting their own competitors will encourage competition and help eliminate monopolies.
Strong child and elder care can be key.
“America’s middle-income workers and low-income workers need safe, affordable and enriching care for their aging relatives and children,” Bushey said. The only way to do this is to subsidize the government.
Unions can also play a key role. A study by the ILR Review at Cornell University found that a unionized worker earns an estimated $1 million more than a nonunion worker.
Importantly, workers without a college degree make more than workers whose full-time jobs are in a union, but not in a union—a key difference for blue-collar workers, most of whom are making strong gains in labor jobs. without degrees.
“There were times in the past when a lot of people thought of manufacturing jobs and construction jobs as good jobs, and in many cases they are,” Drake said. “But in the past, when both sectors had more union densities, these jobs were better.”
And another key to the puzzle is treating blue-collar jobs like any other job — including high-paying tech jobs — with respect.
“If these workers are not given the full respect or recognition they deserve, if they are not recognized for the valuable contributions they make, it can be a threat to dignity,” said Christine Lucas, an associate professor at the college. The University of Louisville business major studies the importance of honor and narratives on blue-collar jobs, Insider said.
Already, Lucas thinks the narrative around blue-collar jobs is not as good as white-collar jobs.
“People are looking at the rising cost of a college education, the less security offered by white-collar jobs. And all the sudden white-collar jobs don’t seem fantastic in comparison,” Lucas said.
“Some people are focusing on things that they find intrinsically interesting, professionally and personally stimulating,” Lucas added. “The idea of building something with your hands, of doing physical work, I think really appeals to a lot of people.”
Thinking of getting into a blue-collar job or already have one? Email this reporter at email@example.com.
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