This is a brief excerpt from a research note written by Neil Howe.
Many leaders—notably, Trump—believe that U.S. blue-collar jobs have simply gone abroad. If only we could take them back, they say, we could return to the “good old days.”
But this is a fallacy. U.S. manufacturers produce as much as they ever did; they just do it with ever-fewer workers. As FiveThirtyEight’s Ben Casselman points out, inflation-adjusted U.S. manufacturing output has climbed 20% since the end of the Great Recession—yet manufacturing employment has inched up just 5% over that time. Economists across the spectrum agree that technology has erased vastly more U.S. industrial jobs than China.
New BLS data illustrate an immutable truth: Blue-collar fields are shrinking (and aging), while pink-collar fields are surging. In fact, going back decades, service-providing firms have accounted for the vast majority of all jobs added by the U.S. economy.
This trend will continue to impact our economy for years to come.
On the downside, the expansion of slow-growth sectors could trigger a long-term U.S. productivity slowdown. On the upside, the growth of services jobs—which are tougher to automate—will slow the rate at which technology makes workers obsolete. Ultimately, this sectoral shift will cause Millennial men to reshape the pink-collar workforce.
According to the February BLS jobs report, goods-producing industries created just 19% of all private U.S. jobs added in January 2017. Service-providing industries created the other 81%.
These new data are the latest manifestation of a longstanding trend, made even more striking when you compare the differing fortunes of pink-collar and blue-collar professions. A Pew analysis of BLS data recently revealed that employment in the educational services industry has more than doubled (up 105%) since 1990. Heath care and social assistance is not far behind, with employment up 99% over the same time period.
This strong performance of these pink-collar professions stands in stark contrast to the glacial growth of blue-collar professions. Construction has done the best of all, with employment up a middling 22% since 1990. But even this growth doesn’t equal the average employment gain for the entire economy over those years (30%). Mining and logging barely gained any jobs at all (up 7%).
Manufacturing has lost 30 percent of its jobs since 1990, the worst performance of any industry.