By Dean Baker and Nick Buffie*
Blue collar job growth was strong in February, with the total number of jobs in manufacturing, construction, and mining rising by 0.5 percent. (The Bureau of Labor Statistics typically releases state employment rate at the end of the net month.)
This was far better than the 0.1 percent job growth experienced in the service sector; however, because the service sector is a much larger share of the total economy, there were more service-sector jobs added (132,000) than in manufacturing, construction, and mining (94,000). February’s data was anomalous: over the past year, employment is up 1.1 percent in manufacturing, construction, and mining and 1.9 percent in the service sector. Between February 2016 and February 2017, employment in manufacturing, construction, and mining rose by 203,000, while service-sector employment rose by 1,942,000.
The biggest gains in blue collar employment were in Illinois (9,000), Texas (8,300), Ohio (7,000), New York (6,000), and Colorado (5,900). In spite of the overall growth, nine states still lost blue collar jobs in February, with the list topped by Virginia (-2,800), Michigan, Georgia, South Carolina and Mississippi.
Construction was responsible for the bulk of blue collar job growth, adding 58,000 jobs in February, the strongest growth since March 2007. Construction employment is up by 219,000 since February 2016, an increase of 3.5 percent over the last year. The strongest growth was in Illinois (7,300 jobs), Ohio (6,300 jobs), California (5,100 jobs), Colorado (5,000 jobs), and Minnesota (4,500 jobs). Among major states, Minnesota and Illinois had the strongest growth in percentage terms.
Eight states lost construction jobs last month, led by Virginia (-3,200), South Carolina (-2,600), Mississippi (-1,600), Nevada (-900), and Wisconsin (-800).
Nationally, the economy added 28,000 manufacturing jobs last month, the third consecutive monthly increase. Over-the-year employment in the sector is up by just 7,000. The biggest gains in manufacturing employment were in Indiana (4,200 jobs), Texas (3,900 jobs), New York (3,800 jobs), Pennsylvania (2,500 jobs), New Jersey (2,400 jobs).
There were 13 states that lost manufacturing jobs in February. The three biggest losers were Michigan (-4,600 jobs), California (-4,000 jobs), and Missouri (-2,200 jobs). Manufacturing job growth was negative in Iowa (-0.1 percent), Kentucky (-0.2 percent), Rhode Island (-0.2 percent), Connecticut (-0.3 percent), New Hampshire (-0.3 percent), California (-0.3 percent), Washington (-0.3 percent), Delaware (-0.4 percent), Georgia (-0.5 percent), Vermont (-0.7 percent), Michigan (-0.8 percent), Missouri (-0.8 percent), and Idaho (-0.9 percent).
Employment in the mining & logging sector rose by 7,700 in February. (The state data include logging with mining. It is also worth noting that the sum of the state changes is not generally equal to the national data due to different seasonal adjustment factors.) February marks four straight months of job growth in the sector. Before the current streak of job growth, mining & logging hadn’t reported a single month of net job growth since September of 2014.
Job growth in the sector was strong in Texas (3,400 jobs), Oklahoma (2,100 jobs), Wyoming (700 jobs), New Mexico (500 jobs), and Arizona (300 jobs). Five states lost jobs in the mining and logging sector in February, led by Alaska, California, and Ohio, which all lost 200 jobs apiece.
Overall, February was a good month in terms of blue collar job growth, with all three sectors growing nationally. A number of states lost blue collar jobs, especially in manufacturing, but 41 states reported net blue collar job gains.
It is unclear at this point whether February was an anomaly, possibly driven in part by relatively good weather, or if it is the beginning of an upward trend for blue collar employment. Recent data suggest at least a leveling off, if not a weakening of the housing market, which could slow growth in construction. Similarly, a rise in the trade deficit may weaken manufacturing, while lower world oil prices could reduce employment in mining. However, the story for blue collar jobs for the first month in the Trump administration is a positive one.
*Dean Baker is an Economist and Co-Director at the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) in Washington, D.C. Nick Buffie is a Research Associate at CEPR.