For the first time in years, blue-collar workers are harder to find than their white-collar counterparts.
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That’s according to a new study published by the Conference Board, which found that a blue-collar worker shortage could last well into 2019. Even as the pool of workers has shrunk, the demand for their services has grown steadily since the financial crisis 10 years ago.
“In certain instances, companies looking to attract enough blue-collar workers will have to continue increasing wages and, as a result, possibly experience diminished profits,” said Gad Levanon, the lead author of the report. “But the picture looks very different for the workers themselves. Compared to a few years ago, blue-collar workers are now much more likely to have a job they are satisfied with and experience rapid wage growth.”
The shortage is largely a result of a better-educated American workforce (increasingly, more working-age individuals have bachelor’s degrees) as well as high retirement rates among baby boomers, a generation that once dominated the industrial sector.
How a blue-collar shortage will affect the rest of the economy remains to be seen, according to the study, but it largely depends on the following: the extent that employers continue to further automate manufacturing jobs; the number of individuals brought back into the labor force; and how many workers migrate into blue-collar jobs from other parts of the workforce.
In order to deal with the shortage amid an increasingly tight labor market -- the unemployment rate is at a nearly 50-year low at 3.7 percent -- some companies should consider lowering their education requirements in order to continue hiring and growing, according to the study.