WHISTLE WHILE YOU WORK: Blue collar America is satisfied on the job and at home.

Author:Karami, Sheena

PREVIOUSLY a declining sector of the U.S. workforce, blue collar jobs are growing at the fastest rate in nearly three-and-a-half decades, yet workers are scarcer than ever, maintain studies from The Washington Post and The Conference Board, respectively. This unique combination of circumstances creates significant new opportunities for Americans who may not have a college education and, as they look to invest in a career, face a crucial question: is taking a blue collar job a smart decision?

According to blue collar workers, the answer appears to be a resounding yes, indicates a white paper released by Express Employment Professionals. Drawing on the expertise of Express franchise owners and polling conducted by Harris Poll, "The State of Blue Collar America" offers an in-depth look at these workers, how they find meaning in their work, and why filling open blue collar jobs is so important

"For the first time in modem history, blue collar job openings outnumber white collar opportunities," says Bill Stoller, CEO of Express Employment Professionals. "These are some of the most in-demand jobs in our country. So, as our paper argues, it's time to rethink negative stereotypes about blue collar work. Job seekers really are in the driver's seat, and that's part of the reason we're seeing rising wages in many of these fields."

The Conference Board study reveals blue collar labor shortages are the result of "converging demographic, educational, and economic trends in the U.S. economy." Baby boomers who once held these jobs are retiring, while others have left the labor force because of disabilities--and more Americans are obtaining four-year degrees, while those without continues to decline. Industries that are feeling the squeeze in particular include transportation, production/manufacturing, and health care support.

Gad Levanon, lead report author and chief economist of North America at The Conference Board, says that, while the situation may not be optimum for businesses, it is quite sunny for workers, as they now are more likely to enjoy their jobs and be rewarded with rapid pay increases, which confirms the Express survey findings for this segment of the workforce.

Indeed, 86% of blue collar workers say they are satisfied...

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