In the interests of furthering yesterday's debate on the fate of poor Errol (taken here as a representative of young male blue collar workers in general) I present above a graph of all US employment by major category. These are absolute numbers, and the data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A few notes:
- Manufacturing peaked in 1979 and has declined absolutely since then (and of course even more so relative to population).
- Information work has been declining since 2000. Speaking just from subjective experience working in Silicon Valley, this is probably mainly due to outsourcing to India. Silicon Valley companies hardly hire college graduates in the US anymore - most places have an outsource operation of some kind, and that's where the 20-somethings are.
- Construction employment is collapsing since the bursting of the housing bubble - since there's currently an oversupply of houses, offices, etc, this will probably continue to collapse for quite a while. This is also where government infrastructure stimulus projects would be most likely to help.
- Financial employment is also declining. Probably many people would consider this to be a good thing - we are a badly overleveraged society, and need to scale back and simplify our financial sector.
- Leisure/Hospitality has been growing steadily. These jobs are generally low paying.
- Education/Health has been growing steadily (probably this is mainly health). However, most people feel like healthcare cost inflation is a big problem and would like to see this trend stop.
From the narrow perspective of joining a growth sector that pays decently, Errol might be well advised to retrain as a nurse. However, as a guy who enjoys tinkering with machining parts in his garage by himself, it would probably be a completely inappropriate use of his natural tendencies and talents to take up a career that involves full time caring for people.
Would commenters care to suggest where on this graph Errol should look for his future?
Also, for background, here is the employment/population ratio for guys ages 25-54 (ie who in some sense should be working, according to traditional western cultural ideas). As you can see, about 15% of the male workforce has gone MIA since the 1950s.
So an argument that manufacturing jobs will be replaced by some other kinds of jobs needs to come to grips with this data.