As Michigan’s economy continues to evolve from a factory-based to a knowledge-based workforce, Ann Arbor’s Michigan Future Inc., a non-partisan, non-profit organization, projects that blue-collar employment will continue to decline through 2026.
Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts growth concentrated in higher-wage professional and managerial occupations, or more broadly, from a goods-producing to a service-providing economy where good-paying jobs are now concentrated in knowledge-based services.
“These occupations are important both because of the role they played in creating a mass middle class here in Michigan and across the country over the last half of the 20th Century,” says Lou Glazer, president and co-founder of Michigan Future.
In 2016, Michigan Future reports there were 32.4 million payroll jobs in the four blue-collar occupational groups (goods producing, construction, production, and extraction), or 20.8 percent of all non-farm payroll jobs. A decade earlier, there were 35.1 million payroll jobs in the four collar occupation groups, with the share of jobs falling to 23.2 percent.
The projections for 2026 are that all four blue collar occupation groups will provide 33.8 million jobs. At that rate, the share of jobs is projected to fall to 20.2 percent.
Michigan Future cautions that the 2006-2016 projections overestimated the growth of the economy in jobs overall, particularly in the blue-collar occupation groups, which were expected to add 1.3 million jobs, but actually lost 2.7 million jobs. Despite the accuracy of past projections, Michigan Future says its likely these jobs will continue to decline after falling from 10.7 million to 9.4 million in the past 10 years.
The report also indicates the median wage for production jobs last year was $33,100, compared to $37,040 for all jobs, making it a below-median-paying application. Of the 22 occupation groups, only seven have lower median wages, including transportation and material moving, which reported a median wage of $30,730 in 2016.
“The big picture is blue-collar occupations are a shrinking component of national employment, and are not high-paying occupations,” adds Glazer. “Yes, there are good-paying jobs available today and there will be good-paying jobs a decade from now in blue-collar occupations. But far fewer and at lower pay than conventional wisdom.”
More information about blue collar job projections can be found here.