Skip to content
Opinion
Justin Fox

Farewell to the Blue-Collar Elite

Employment is rising in durable-goods manufacturing after a decades-long decline. But the pay is no longer anything special.
Making stuff doesn't pay very well.

Making stuff doesn't pay very well.

Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg

Something momentous happened back in November, although I’m not sure anybody noticed it at the time. Maybe because it’s such a mouthful.

Here goes: In November, the average hourly earnings of production and nonsupervisory employees in durable-goods manufacturing dropped below the average hourly earnings of all private nonfarm production and nonsupervisory employees for the first time on record. They’ve stayed lower since. According to the latest jobs data released Friday, durable-goods manufacturing workers made $20.79 an hour in March; private-sector workers overall made $20.89.