Wage gains among blue-collar and manual labor workers were strong in the years before Covid-19, reversing what had been a three-decade trend of greater compensation leverage for the professional class.

As the economy reopens, construction jobs are booming, and big low-wage industry employers such as McDonald’s, Chipotle and Under Armour are raising minimum wages and offering additional benefits.

The tight labor market won’t last forever, but the retirement of baby boomers and other longer-term demographic factors are creating a gap between manual labor job demand and workers available to hire for them.
Companies are in desperate need of workers across the country as the economic reopening collides with a tight labor market, but the boom in manual labor job wage growth pre-dates the pandemic.

Donna Kauffman, co-owner of a landscaping design and construction company in Colleyville, Texas, said a tightened labor market has pushed her starting wage up to $13.75 per hour, compared to lower wages in previous years.

Economic forecasters like Gary Shilling have been watching blue-collar and manual service wages trend upwards for the last several years, growing at a faster rate than wages for white-collar jobs and reversing a trend that had been in place throughout the past 30 years, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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