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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

Business

Molly Line

Boston, MA

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Job Hunt: Blue Collar Workers Struggle Most

March 23, 2010 - 9:38 AM | by: Molly Line

While nearly every industry across the country has taken a hit during this recession, manufacturing and construction workers have experienced devastating job losses.

Blue collar workers are feeling the brunt of the recession, according to a study conducted by Northeastern University in Boston.

“They have absorbed almost 7 out of every 10 job losses in the country through the end of last year,” said Professor Andrew Sum, Director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern. “The magnitude of those declines are really unprecedented.”

The study reveals production workers, construction workers, truck drivers and warehouse workers have absorbed extraordinarily high job losses.

“We estimate that, since the recession began, that one out of every six blue collar workers lost their job,” said Sum.
“The job loss among blue collar workers has been about proportional to that we experienced of the great depression of the early 1930’s.”

Tim Ahern, 63, of Bristol, Connecticut is among those blue collar workers struggling to find work in the construction field.

“There’s a lot of people on the bench, sitting and waiting,” said Ahern. “I went through that recession they had back in 73 but it’s never been like this. This is the worst that I’ve ever seen.”

Ahern is a member of Carpenters Local 210 out of Fairfield and says he’s not the only one looking for work.
“That’s the first question everybody asks there- when we gonna start working, when we gonna start?”

In the meantime, Ahern says he’s staying busy. “I’ll have something else that I can fall back on,” said Ahern. Government grants have helped him update his training in everything from hazmat safety to forklift operation.

“I’m collecting unemployment but I went through my 26 weeks. I’m already into three extensions this year, waiting for another one. I’ll see what happens,” said Ahern. He’s considering tapping his retirement funds.

“Our ability to maintain a healthy middle class is very dependent on being able to get a lot of these individuals back into the workplace and back into jobs to keep the rest of the economy going,” said Sum, who argues the loss of blue collar jobs effects all layers of society from banking to retail sales.

“You also have the case of a lot of these blue collar workers having a hard time meeting their mortgages. So then that creates problems for the ability of lending institutions to recover their loans,” explains Sum. “So there are very high multiplier effects from many manufacturing activities. So the loss of jobs spills over into the rest of the economy.”

Sum believes stimulus money should better target laborers who have lost so much in the midst of economic crisis.

“We need to be bailed out,” said Ahern. “We don’t want anything more than just, give us a job. Just let us do what we do best.”

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