Current strong economic conditions are increasing the demand for blue-collar workers. For the first time in over a decade, there are more open jobs than available workers, creating increased competition for low-wage earners who now have their choice of employers. What has traditionally been perceived as a replaceable, low-value segment of the workforce is today more empowered than ever and willing to change employers if their needs are not met.
The survey shows when looking for a new job, the initial pay rate, job security and benefits are the most important factors for hourly workers. But employees accept jobs and remain in jobs for different reasons. The top three factors for remaining in an existing job were a great work culture, schedule and the ability to learn new skills.
“For a significant number of blue-collar workers, company culture and the opportunity to learn new skills are top factors in remaining in a job,” says EmployBridge CEO Tom Bickes. “Employers should be mindful of these incentives or risk losing good workers.”
Survey results show 26% of employed hourly workers were actively pursuing new jobs, and an additional 30% were willing to consider a new job if an opportunity presented itself.
The high demand for hourly workers is causing wages to rise. National average pay rates for our logistics and manufacturing workers have increased from $12.45 in 2017 to $13.87 in 2019. Of course, high cost areas around the country command even higher wages.
Innovative shift scheduling, in addition to increased pay (commonly known as shift differentials), may help staff positions on second and third shifts. Most workers surveyed (54%) prefer a reliable, five-day-a-week, first shift schedule. However, an increase of $1.30 per hour would motivate 72% of respondents working first shift to work a second- or third-shift job. The survey also revealed that only 14% of the workforce prefers 12-hour shifts, which are common in the supply chain industry.
Despite the strong economy, there are currently 7.3 million unfilled jobs in America, and a 50-year-low labor participation rate. One reason for the low participation rate may be that while the data show clear pathways for growth among blue-collar workers, those who don’t adapt to the rapidly changing industrial landscape—largely driven by new technology—risk falling behind.
In what is likely a direct response to the rapid technological changes, 95% of survey respondents indicated they’d invest regular personal time to learn a new skill. Of those, nearly a third were willing to invest at least five hours of personal time a week.
“The survey shows that Americans are hungry for opportunities for skills-building, so they don’t wake up one day and feel like their talents are irrelevant,” says Brian Devine, EmployBridge senior vice president. “The skills gap is projected to keep widening, and trillions of dollars in economic impact hang in the balance.”
Survey results also revealed 90% of workers were interested in apprenticeships, and 38% were “extremely interested.”
Survey methodology and history
The 2019 survey was conducted from February 11 to March 22. It solicited 18,505 responses from workers in 45 states. Of those respondents, 12,171 represented the manufacturing industry and 6,334 represented the logistics industry.
This employee opinion survey is in its 12th year. The inaugural survey was conducted in 2007 in response to a lack of available data on the work preferences and expectations of hourly, blue-collar workers. Today, EmployBridge and its specialty workforce divisions—ResourceMFG, ProLogistix, Select, Remedy and Westaff—continue this expansive body of research. The goal is to shed light on the factors that attract, motivate and retain the blue-collar workforce comprising the US supply chain. EmployBridge’s specialty workforce divisions use this data to more effectively recruit and manage blue-collar workers on behalf of its customers.