Report: Blue-Collar Jobs for Workers Without Bachelor’s Degrees Are Changing, Not Lost

By Joelle Fredman, Communications Staff

While millions of manufacturing workers lost their jobs over the past 20 years as technology turned traditional positions obsolete, states have increased the number of blue-collar jobs for workers without bachelor’s degrees in other industries, according to new research from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

Although news has circulated that the blue-collar job market is dying, a state-by-state analysis of good jobs for workers without bachelor’s degrees tells a different story, according to the study’s co-author Jeff Strohl.

“We think it’ll be surprising to many people that there are a number of states where there has been a growth in the blue- collar economy,” Strohl said. “That’s really counter from the news we've been hearing over the last 20 years.”

The report—a joint effort with JPMorgan Chase & Co.—found that between 1991 and 2015, 34 states added good jobs that don’t require a four-year degree, with the fastest growth occurring in the South and West.

Despite an extensive loss in manufacturing jobs in 38 states, nearly half the states added blue-collar jobs in other industries such as construction and transportation.

According to the study, the loss of 2.5 million manufacturing jobs was "more than offset" by the nationwide gain of these 4 million skilled-services jobs.

While there are 30 million good jobs for those without bachelor's degrees—with a median salary of $55,000—the study also found that across every state, more jobs are requiring workers to have some sort of postsecondary education.

“For each generation of high school workers who hit the labor market without further education, it’s getting harder and harder to get a job,” Strohl said.

In order to remain competitive in the job market, Strohl said workers need to obtain some sort of secondary education, such as a certificate. In 1991, those with high school degrees filled more than half of good jobs in almost half of the states; today that only holds true in Delaware and West Virginia.

Strohl said that being aware of the growing market for workers without bachelor’s degrees is important in terms of shaping public policy.

“There is continued job opportunity for those without bachelor's degrees and higher,” Strohl said. “By being conscious of this we can develop policy to protect individuals in this sector.”


Publication Date: 11/13/2017

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