Summary of Blue-Collar Worker Shortages

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With more and more Americans striving for a college degree, fewer people are competing for traditional blue-collar and low-wage service jobs. Conference Board economists Gad Levanon and Frank Steemers offer an insightful perspective on how this trend is likely to accelerate, as US economic growth continues and employers have to contend with labor shortages for these less prestigious jobs. This illuminating, focused and amply illustrated piece is likely to interest policy experts, economists and human resources professionals.

In this summary, you will learn

  • Why demand in the United States for blue-collar and low-wage service workers is on the rise,
  • What challenges this presents, and
  • How employers can deal with looming labor shortages.
 

About the Authors

Gad Levanon is the chief economist for North America at the Conference Board, where Frank Steemers is an associate economist.

 

Summary

The US labor market has notably improved since the Great Recession, with unemployment down to 3.7% in 2018 from a peak of 10% in 2009. Expectations for 2019 include further labor demand, especially for blue-collar and low-wage service workers in fields such as agriculture, construction, manufacturing, transportation and food services, among others. As more Americans get college degrees, there are fewer takers for blue-collar jobs. The overall growth in the workforce has decelerated as baby boomers age. However, while the number of college-educated workers continues to grow at about 2% per year, the number of those who didn’t pass through the portals of higher education shrinks, as they become older or leave the labor pool due to disability. Businesses report being hard-pressed to find blue-collar workers and to hold on to them.


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