Growing shortages of blue-collarworkers are the result of “converging demographic, educational, andeconomic trends in the U.S. economy.” (Photo:Shutterstock)

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It's literally been decades since it was harder to find blue-collar workers than white-collar workers,but that's the current state of affairs in this tight job market.

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A new analysis by The Conference Board predicts that growingblue-collar labor shortages will continue in 2019 and even after.In addition, companies can expect growing shortages in sectors thatinclude transportation, health care support, manufacturing, agriculture, mining andconstruction.

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The news could be good for workers, though, since the reportalso says that in addition to increasing wages, companies may haveto expand their pools of potential workers.

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Related: The next generation of AI-resistant blue-collarjobs

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According to the report, growing shortages of blue-collarworkers are the result of “converging demographic, educational, andeconomic trends in the U.S. economy,” with the rise of workers witha bachelor's degree has increased due to more education of the U.S.population overall. At the same time, the number of workers lackinga degree has shrunk. In addition, boomers are retiring inincreasingly large numbers, and they once formed a sizable segmentof the blue-collar workforce.

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Disability, too, has taken a toll, with many non-graduatesdeparting the workforce because of the impact thatblue-collar work can have on the body. But that doesn't mean thatdemand for blue-collar workers has lessened—in fact, since the 2008financial crisis, it has only grown, since the services theyprovide are no less necessary.

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Tight labor markets, says the report, are especially visible inthree blue-collar and low-pay service sectors:

  • Transportation, which is experiencing a boom thanks to onlineshopping and the demand for deliveries.
  • Production/manufacturing, due to less productivity growth fromautomation and less offshoring of jobs between 2010–2018.
  • Health care support, a burgeoning field thanks in part to agingand retiring boomers who need the help of such workers as homehealth aides and nursing aides.

The report suggests that employers will have to explore furtherways to automate—such as in food preparation, cleaning/maintenanceand manufacturing—to help reduce the toll the labor shortage willotherwise take. In addition, they should consider cutting educationrequirements for some positions and providing internal training, aswell as possibly shifting locations to areas in which moreblue-collar labor is available.

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Marlene Satter

Marlene Y. Satter has worked in and written about the financial industry for decades.