Prospects are improving for some blue collar workers, reports the Economist. The construction industry, in particular, is on the hunt for new employees, and both mining and trucking are picking up steam as well:
Though still a shadow of its former size, construction is experiencing something it has not felt since the housing bubble peaked in 2006: labour shortages. Builders complain that they cannot find enough carpenters, labourers and estimators. It is too soon to call it a seller’s market, but wages are starting to respond.[…] For the past two years hourly wages for all workers have grown at an annual rate of around 2%. But, excluding managers and supervisors, the growth of hourly wages for production workers has accelerated, to 2.3% in April from 1.5% in early 2012 […]. The gains are still too slight to pose an inflationary threat, especially since salaries in low-paid industries such as retail remain weak.
Of course, sometimes what looks like good news actually isn’t:
The unemployment rate for high-school graduates has actually fallen faster than for college graduates: by 4.4 versus 1.5 percentage points since 2010. However, it is still much higher, at 6.3% to 3.3%. And its fall owes less to red-hot demand than to falling supply, as many workers have left the labour force.
That’s worrisome, but perhaps at least some discouraged workers can be reintegrated into a job market that is beginning to look healthier. We wrote last week about new start-ups that set out to train low-skilled workers for in-demand jobs. One company vets candidates for trucking jobs and guarantees them positions upon their graduation from training. Its services may be in great demand, since trucking companies are so eager for workers that they offer signing bonuses of $1,000 and more, according to the Economist. More such “matchmakers” between workers and employers could help this fledgling blue-collar recovery take off.In an economy where low-skilled workers have been losing ground rapidly, any turnaround, however slight, is something to cheer about.