What is a blue collar worker?
Blue collar workers work most often in a non-office setting (construction site, production line, driving etc.). They use their hands and physical abilities to perform their duties. Examples of blue collar employees include construction worker, machine operator, millwright, assembler and truck driver.
The blue collar job definition doesn’t specify the skill level or the type of pay workers receive: they can be skilled or unskilled, waged or salaried. It does imply that employees are likely to do jobs that can get their clothes dirty – e.g. from soil or grease. This is the source of the “blue collar” description, dating from the beginning of the 20th century when these workers were wearing darker clothes than “white collar” workers, or clothes more resistant to the increased wear and tear of physical work, such as blue denim. However, workers in some service professions could also be categorized as being blue collar, e.g. home health aides or cashiers.
Under U.S. federal law, blue collar workers are usually not exempt from overtime or minimum wage regulations in the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act); although, some states may exempt specific types of blue collar workers, like drivers.
How many blue collar workers are there in America?
The US. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provided the numbers of workers in every profession, including blue collar jobs. For example, in 2018, construction laborers numbered around 1,405,000 while workers in maintenance and repair totalled 1,488,000.
Also, based on a 2018 Washington Post article, about 13.9 percent of workers are in blue collar professions.
The growth of blue collar jobs is presented in a map on the site of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, based on BLS data. According to some reports, it’s currently challenging for employers to find workers for blue collar jobs.
If you liked our blue collar worker definition, check out the rest of our HR terms.