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. Design

    The Problem With 'Fast-Casual Architecture'

    Washington, D.C., has a huge new waterfront development that’s fun, popular, and easy on the eyes. Is anything wrong with that?

  2. Transportation

    If You Drive Less Than 10,000 Miles a Year, You Probably Shouldn't Own a Car

    Up to one-quarter of all U.S. drivers might be better off using ride-sharing services instead.

  3. Transportation

    How Seattle Bucked a National Trend and Got More People to Ride the Bus

    Three experts in three very different positions weigh in on their city’s ridership success.

  4. Equity

    Big Tech Ought to Step Up for Cities

    Leading high-tech firms have increasingly gone from heroes to villains in the eyes of their neighbors. It’s in their own interest to help make cities more affordable and inclusive.

  5. Design

    Experimental City: The Sci-Fi Utopia That Never Was

    With solar energy, recycling, computers, and personal mass transit, the 1960s-era Minnesota Experimental City was a prescient and hopeful vision of the urban future. A new documentary tells its story.