The recession has driven home the fact that not all jobs are created equal. Over the past decade, the size of the American blue-collar workforce has declined substantially. Between 2000 and 2010, the economy lost roughly 4 million blue-collar jobs, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, mainly as a result of manufacturing job losses, the housing crisis and, of course, the recession. Even with the economic downturn, however, middle-aged people with higher-paying jobs have fared better than most.
Blue-collar jobs face both structural and cyclical difficulties. Early in the decade, the manufacturing base in the U.S. began eroding swiftly as companies accelerated the relocation of plants to areas of the world with inexpensive labor, most notably China and Mexico. Later in the decade, as the housing market collapsed and the economy fell into recession, large industries like auto manufacturing were further hurt by drops in demand.
The housing crisis hit another segment of blue-collar jobs. Falling home prices nearly halted the building of new houses, and the home construction workforce was decimated. In states like California and Nevada, some home values plunged by more than 60%. Construction jobs in those areas disappeared. Property values fell sharply in other states like Arizona and Florida. Across the entire country, the construction industry shed a million jobs from 2000 to 2010.
By contrast, white-collar workers have weathered the recession relatively well. The unemployment rate for workers with a college degree is 4.4 percent, as compared to 10 percent for those with only a high-school education. Nonetheless, an analysis by 24/7 Wall St. found that some seven states have decreased the percentage of their workforce in white-collar jobs over the past decade.
Some states probably had white-collar job erosion because of the shuttering of a few large companies. Missouri had the largest drop in white-collar jobs as a percentage of total jobs between 2000 and 2010. St. Louis was once headquarters to a number of Fortune 500 companies and was one of the largest cities in the central part of the country. It now ranks No. 57 among all cities based on population with barely 320,000 people. Large companies like McDonald Douglas and TWA are gone.
The other major reason that white-collar jobs as a percentage of the total have dropped in some of these seven states is that they are resource rich. Many of the people who have come to states like North Dakota and Alaska have probably not come to be managers. The growth in the number of people who work oil wells, mines and farm equipment has fueled the work force size in these states. States with crude and metals resources, as well as agricultural products, will likely continue that trend.
These are the states in which white- and blue-collar jobs are disappearing.
*In order to identify the states in which white-collar jobs have decreased as a percent of the total workforce, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on the type of occupations people have in different states. Using accepted definitions of white and blue-collar jobs, they calculated the percent of the total workforce that was white collar in 2000 and in 2010. Some of the positions considered white collar include those in architecture, engineering, finance, management, and legal occupations. Some of the positions considered blue collar include manufacturing, retail sales, drivers, food preparation and construction jobs. They then identified those states where the percent of the white-collar had decreased and the percent of the blue-collar had decreased most significantly. Across all states, only seven out of fifty actually had a relative decrease of white-collar positions, and only two of these actually had a net loss of those jobs.