Despite Recent Gains, Blue Collar Employment Remains Well Below Prerecession Levels

Employment in blue collar jobs rose by 49,000 in April, an increase of 0.2 percent. Since last April, employment in mining and logging (combined), manufacturing, and construction has increased by 561,000 or 2.8 percent. Together, these jobs accounted for 13.8 percent of jobs in April. In the Midwestern industrial belt, blue collar employment fell by 0.1 percent for a decrease in employment of 5,400 jobs, the second month without an increase in employment in a row. Blue collar jobs were 15.8 percent of total employment in the region in April.

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Mining gained 8,000 jobs nationwide,  mostly due to 7,000 new jobs in support activities for mining. The majority of these workers (259,900 in March, the most recent data available) are contract workers — both individuals and those employed by contracting companies, according to the MSHA — in oil and gas extraction as opposed to other mining (75,200). While coal mining saw a gain of 700 jobs in April nationwide, in the three states with available data, Kentucky added 100 coal mining jobs, while there was no change in Pennsylvania and Wyoming.

In manufacturing, 34 states experienced at least a modest increase in employment with the biggest gainers being Texas with 8,600 jobs (an increase of 1 percent), followed by Florida and North Carolina, each with increases of 2,900 jobs (0.8 percent and 0.6 percent increases respectively). Texas and Florida have seen the biggest increases in manufacturing employment of the past year, adding 28,000 (a 3.3 percent increase) and 12,300 (a 3.4 percent increase) jobs each. Wisconsin’s employment in the sector is up 13,700 or 2.9 percent over the last year, but it only added 500 jobs last month. Elsewhere in the Midwest, Illinois saw the largest increase in manufacturing jobs (1,600), while Michigan, New York and Ohio lost 1,000, 1,900, and 1,800 jobs each. After seeing increases in manufacturing for several months, Kentucky lost 3,500 jobs, a falloff of 1.4 percent.

The number of construction jobs continued to grow with an addition of 17,000 jobs nationwide last month. The Midwest, though, lost a total of 4,300 jobs on the whole, led by declines in construction jobs in Indiana (2,300 jobs, a 1.6 percent decrease), Wisconsin (2,000 jobs, a 1.6 percent decrease), and Michigan (1,100 jobs, a 0.6 percent decrease). Compared to last April, all states in the region have gained jobs, save Iowa, which has seen the total number of construction jobs in the state fall by 3.2 percent, or 2,500 jobs since last April.