Blue-collar hiring and pay gains stay hot in a cooling job market

Blue-collar hiring and wages remain strong in a cooling job market, as employers look for workers to fill critical jobs, according to government data released on Friday.

Non-farm payrolls increased by 196,000 in March, slightly below consensus estimates of 200,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Although the jobless rate ticked up slightly to 3.8%, wages rose 3.2% for the 12 months ending in March, the fastest since April 2009.

The strongest job gains occurred in areas such as construction, manufacturing, and transportation and warehousing—all of which are considered blue-collar fields. Construction added 33,000 jobs in March, while manufacturing rose by 4,000, and transportation and warehousing added 11,000. Service jobs, such as professional and business services, also saw strong gains, with the sector adding 34,000 jobs.

The job growth in blue-collar sectors, coupled with the strong wage growth, highlights the importance of these types of jobs in keeping the economy humming. Blue-collar workers have been some of the biggest beneficiaries of the tight labor markets, as employers have had to raise wages to attract applicants.

While the job and wage gains in the blue-collar arena are good news, the overall job market is slowly cooling. The six-month average for job creation has fallen to 173,000, below the 2017 and 2018 levels. This is a sign of a slowing economy, which could lead to further job losses in the coming months.