Blue-collar unemployed see red
Scott Stevenson is one of the 14.9 million U.S. workers who are officially jobless, according to the latest statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor. More depressingly, he is also among the 6.2 million unfortunate enough to have been that way for 27 weeks or more — a beleaguered cohort that the government dubs the “long-term unemployed.”
Over the past four years, Stevenson has lost almost everything. His $38,000-a-year factory job as well as the three-bedroom home it helped him buy are gone.
In June, after 99 weeks on the dole, his unemployment benefits ran out.
The U.S. recession and the nearly simultaneous restructuring of the auto industry have delivered the most savage one-two punch the blue-collar middle class has absorbed in a generation. Of the more than 8 million U.S. jobs lost in the downturn, nearly half were in either manufacturing or construction — higher-wage sectors that traditionally provided entry-level jobs that turned into well-paying career jobs for people like Stevenson, whose formal education stopped after high school.
Unfortunately, economists, executives and other labor-market watchers say many of the jobs lost in the downturn, particularly in manufacturing, are never coming back.
That’s because in spite of the downturn, and in some cases because of it, companies have continued to invest in labor-saving, productivity-enhancing technology here in the United States as well as offshore high volume, low-margin and labor-intensive work abroad.