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Recent demand for blue collar workers

Although in recent years, blue collar laborers seems to be on the decline and thought to be reserved for those who only had high school educations, recent shifts in the composition of local economies in oil-rich areas have led to their resurgence.

Thanks to the energy boom which necessitated jobs in the petrochemical industry, the demand for Blue collar workers in Texas and the gulf coast area has rapidly increased in recent decades.

Jobs that were once thought of as undesirable, are now at full capacity due to the increase in wages in these fields. As a retired construction worker says, “for a long time, parents didn’t want their son or daughter to become a pipe fitter or welder, but now, the demand for non college graduates with vocational skills is huge”. Companies who are demanding these types of workers say the demand has not reached its peak yet because they still have a demand for technicians, inspectors, welders, and other trade-type jobs.

This increased demand represents a shift in the composition of the job market. In the 1980s there were 550,000 welders employed nation-wide. Experts say there was a huge drop off in the demand for blue collar jobs and the pattern is only now reversing itself, with employment in the welding industry expected to increase by 10% in the next decade alone. Right now there are 343,000 people employed nationwide as welders.

Click below to view the interactive graphic on ‘The Changing Nature of Middle-Class Jobs’


  1. HeeJu HeeJu

    I think economists have actually observed the growing economic opportunities for low-skill occupations for quite a while now. On the other hand, it is the workers in middle-skill jobs who have seen their wages depress and job opportunities diminish. If you read David Autors paper, he argues that automation, international trade, offshoring, and de-unionization have contributed to what he calls “job polarization in America”; while demand and earning for both high and low-skill sector have increased, those for middle sector have significantly decreased.

  2. First, in a week or two we’ll have an interim report from this blog’s author about the near-term prospects for these new jobs, now that the shine is off the oil boom.

    As to the welders example, I’m not sure what sorts of jobs they actually work on — the welders I’ve known have been in bridge construction and in erecting big buildings. Of course, I don’t live in the oil patch.

    Overall, however, the macroeconomic problem remains one of insufficient demand, not millions of job openings going unfilled. So I think for the discussion to proceed we need to think about the time frame of Autor versus that of Mary Beth. Are these consistent? of different time frames, so both could be right (or wrong, but let’s assume right!)?

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