Report: N.H. bleeds blue-collar jobs

Over the last decade, New Hampshire lost a higher percentage of blue-collar jobs from its total workforce than any other state in the country, according to a report by an online business journal.New Hampshire’s blue-collar workforce fell nearly 8 percent between 2000 and 2010, the largest dip in the nation, according to the website 24/7 Wall St., which analyzed employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.This amounts to about 30,000 fewer blue-collar positions, “the vast majority of which were production jobs, including factory jobs,” reads the report, which classified jobs in manufacturing, retail sales, driving, food preparation and construction as blue-collar.While the figure may seem grim, “it probably means that we gained white-collar jobs at a faster pace, since our overall employment increased” during that period, said Dennis Delay, economist with the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies.The report also finds the blue-collar workforce to be in decline nationally. The United States lost approximately 4 million blue-collar jobs over the same 10-year period — a reduction that is attributed to the recession, manufacturers moving overseas and the housing crisis.”When the economy goes into recession, manufacturing and construction always do get hit harder than any other sector in terms of job losses,” said Delay, adding that in the wake of the 2001 recession, New Hampshire lost about 25 percent of its manufacturing jobs.But “manufacturing is still the largest part of the New Hampshire economy overall, based on how much people are paid,” he added.Delay was also wary of how the report defined “blue collar,” since many industries typically considered blue collar are broadening to encompass more technical skills, such as so-called “brown-collar” UPS drivers, whose jobs require manual labor but also familiarity with technology and productivity.”The nature of work is frankly changing, even in the blue-collar industries,” Delay said. “More and more, the average manufacturing job requires high levels of training and education and improved skill sets. The blue-collar image of somebody sort of standing at a drill press and pulling the thing up and down for eight hours is not what the average manufacturing job is now.” — KATHLEEN CALLAHAN/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

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