States Seeing Dramatic Labor Shifts
There's no mystery that the U.S. economy is in a period of tremendous upheaval. That the specter of default hangs over the country's debt talks is perhaps the best display of how much things have changed over the past decade. In the 2000 election, the question that seemed the most titillating to the two major candidates was how to best take advantage of the country's surplus.
Faced with traversing a rapidly evolving employment landscape, America's workers have been forced to adjust to the unpredictable. And the media outlet 24/7 Wall St. has put together a study of the states in which the percentage of blue- and white-collar jobs are declining the fastest.
For America's working class heroes, the swaths of the country historically populated by factory and manufacturing workers have, not surprisingly, suffered the worst. Some 4 million of these jobs have disappeared over the past decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. There has been no specific geographic area that's been hit the hardest, showing a transition in the labor market from coast to coast. New England, however, did see several states appearing in 24/7's list of top states losing blue collar jobs over the last 10 years. Connecticut, for its part, has lost 90,000 "machinists, assembly workers, team assemblers and welders." New Hampshire's downturn was chalked up to the closure of the state's machining factories.
For 24/7, the explanations for the loss of 4 million jobs were many, but the report highlighted two top reasons:
"Early in the decade, the manufacturing base in the U.S. began eroding swiftly as companies accelerated the relocation of plants to areas of the world with inexpensive labor, most notably China and Mexico.... The housing crisis hit another segment of blue-collar jobs. Falling home prices nearly halted building of new houses, and the home construction workforce was decimated. In states like California and Nevada, some home values plunged by more than 60 percent. Construction jobs in those areas disappeared. Property values fell sharply in other states, like Arizona and Florida. Across the entire country, the construction industry shed a million jobs from 2000 to 2010."
The report also described the listing's results as "unexpected."
The nation's white collar workforce has seen its destiny more greatly tied in to events not necessarily connected to the larger shifts of the economy at large. Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was shown to have led to the loss of 250,000 total jobs in Louisiana. And "while most of the people who lost their jobs after the tragedy were rehired in the following months, the state retained a net loss of nearly 50,000 private sector positions," the report notes. Among the positions faring the worst in the post-Katrina economy were administrative assistants and accountants.
For other states seeing a shift in white-collar positions, the reason is being chalked up to the mining of natural resources: companies hiring field workers at a higher rate than administrative positions. Oil and gas exploration has created such a scenario in states like Texas, Alaska and North Dakota.
24/7's States Where Blue Collar Jobs Are Diminishing
1. New Hampshire
24/7's States Where White Collar Jobs Are Diminishing
2. North Dakota
6. New Mexico
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Dan Fastenberg was most recently a reporter with TIME Magazine. Previously, he was a writer for the Thomson Reuters news service's Latin America desk. He was also a reporter and associate editor for the Buenos Aires Herald while living in South America.
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