What might the geography of blue-collar work look like in the next decade?

The United States is on track to generate 20 million jobs between 2010-2020, according to the latest projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But job creation will vary widely by type of job and also by metro region. The nation is projected to generate 7 million new high-wage, high-skill jobs for professional, technical, and creative workers, 10 million low-wage, low-skill service jobs, and 2.7 million new blue-collar jobs. 

This week I'll be looking at where the jobs will be over the next decade. Based on an analysis by my colleague Charlotta Mellander, I'll map the changing distribution of the major types of jobs. 

Today, we start with blue-collar jobs, which primarily make use of physical skill or manual labor. These include jobs in direct production as well as transportation, maintenance, and production. 

Over the past several decades, the United States has seen a steady erosion of blue-collar work. Such jobs currently account for about 21 percent of all U.S. employment, a 2 percent dip since we last looked at the numbers in 2010. 

But the BLS projects an additional 2.7 million new blue-collar jobs by 2020, spurred mainly by increases in construction and transportation. 

The map below by Zara Matheson shows the projected growth in blue-collar, or working-class, jobs by metro area from 2010 to 2020.

Not surprisingly, the biggest metros top this list. Greater New York is the biggest gainer and is projected to add 103,626 working-class jobs, followed by Chicago (93,658), Los Angeles (88,323), Houston (83,111), Atlanta (58,343), Dallas (53,592), Washington, D.C. (44,835), Phoenix (44,402), Philadelphia (40,312), and Riverside, California (40,312).

But job growth is a function of population size, so it’s no surprise that large metros dominate this list.

The next map plots the projected percentage change in working-class jobs for U.S. metros:

Farmington, New Mexico, tops the list with a projected blue-collar growth of 16.1 percent. It's followed by Midland, Texas (15.9 percent), Grand Junction, Colorado (15.9 percent), Santa Fe, New Mexico (15.8 percent), Fairbanks, Alaska (15.8 percent), Naples, Florida (15.8 percent), Jacksonville, North Carolina (15.8 percent), Anchorage, Alaska (15.7 percent), Cheyenne, Wyoming (15.7 percent), and Punta Gorda, Florida. (15.6 percent). The places with the slowest projected blue-collar growth are mainly traditional manufacturing metros such as Elkhart, Indiania (8.4 percent) and Dalton, Georgia (9.1 percent), Columbus, Indiana (9.4 percent), Hickory, North Carolina (9.4 percent), Sheboygan, Wisconsin (9.7 percent), and Muskegon, Michigan (9.9 percent), among others.

Among large metros (those with over one million people) Washington, D.C. leads the pack with a projected working class growth of 15.4 percent (ranking 15th out of all metros), followed by Las Vegas (15.4 percent), Bethesda, Maryland (15.3 percent), West Palm Beach, Florida (14.8 percent), Sacramento, California (14.7 percent ) and Baltimore, Maryland (14.4 percent).

The good news is that the growth rate of blue-collar jobs has increased across the board since we looked at the same projections two years ago. The bad news for blue-collar workers is that these jobs are becoming a smaller piece of the American jobs pie. Over this same time, the amount of production jobs will shrink from 6.0 to 5.5 percent of all jobs. 

Later this week I'll look at where the two fastest growing segments of jobs—knowledge jobs and service jobs—are projected to grow in the future.

Top image: Reuters/Brian Snyder

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A photo-illustration of several big-box retail stores.
    Equity

    After the Retail Apocalypse, Prepare for the Property Tax Meltdown

    Big-box retailers nationwide are slashing their property taxes through a legal loophole known as "dark store theory." For the towns that rely on that revenue, this could be a disaster.

  2. A photo of a mural in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
    Life

    Stop Complaining About Your Rent and Move to Tulsa, Suggests Tulsa

    In an effort to beef up the city’s tech workforce, the George Kaiser Family Foundation is offering $10,000, free rent, and other perks to remote workers who move to Tulsa for a year.

  3. Equity

    Housing Can’t Be Both Affordable and a Good Investment

    The two pillars of American housing policy are fundamentally at odds.

  4. A photo of protesters carrying anti-Amazon posters during a rally and press conference in NYC.
    Amazon HQ2

    Amazon’s HQ2 Decision Was Always About Transit

    In the end, New York’s MTA and D.C.’s Metro were the only transportation networks capable of handling such an influx of new residents. But both cities will have some work to do.

  5. A man wears a mask with the likeness of French president Emmanuel Macron as people take part in the nationwide "Yellow Vest" demonstrations, a symbol of a French drivers' protest against higher fuel prices, in Haulchin, France.
    Equity

    Why Drivers Are Leading a Protest Movement Across France

    The rapidly developing “Yellow Vest” movement took over streets and highways to oppose rising gas and diesel taxes. It might also be a proxy for frustrations about rising costs and falling living standards.