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Blue collar worker definition

“Blue collar” is one classification of employees based on the type of labor they perform. The blue collar worker definition indicates that these workers perform primarily manual labor. Other similar classifications include white collar, pink collar, black collar and more.


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.

Frequently asked questions

What kind of job is a blue-collar job?

Blue-collar jobs are typically classified as involving manual labor and compensation by an hourly wage. Some fields that fall into this category include construction, manufacturing, maintenance, and mining.

What is a pink-collar job?

Pink-collar occupations tend to be personal-service-oriented workers working in retail, nursing, and teaching (depending on the level), are part of the service sector, and are among the most common occupations in the United States.

What is above white-collar?

One step above white-collared workers, gold-collar workers are highly skilled people in their industry, so much so that they are an important part of their employer's business operations. Their skill sets and experience are very rare but in high demand, making them incredibly valuable in the workforce.

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