“In certain instances, companies looking to attract enough blue-collar workers will have to continue increasing wages and, as a result, possibly experience diminished profits,” said Gad Levanon, lead report author and Chief Economist of North America at The Conference Board. “But the picture looks very different for the workers themselves. Compared to a few years ago, blue-collar workers are now much more likely to have a job they are satisfied with and experience rapid wage growth.”
Over the next decade, the extent of the challenges caused by blue-collar labor shortages will depend largely on three factors: To what extent employers can further automate blue-collar jobs; how many additional individuals are brought back into the labor force; and, how many workers move into blue-collar jobs from other parts of the labor market. As the report discusses, companies should consider the following actions to help alleviate current or potential shortages in the future:
- Invest more in automation. Many blue-collar jobs have the potential to become automated in the next decade. Food preparation, manufacturing, and cleaning and maintenance occupations are particularly likely to be automated and, to some extent, already have been.
- For certain jobs, reduce education requirements. Amid tightening labor markets, many companies are expanding the supply of talent by lowering education requirements during recruitment and providing basic internal training.
- Find locations with greater availability of blue-collar labor. In some occupations, most notably manufacturing, employers have more discretion on where to locate operations and can thus shift some of the work to areas with increased availability of blue-collar labor.