Before the year began, almost 90 per cent of employers responded to Hays Surveys in the US and Europe, saying that they planned to offer pay raises in 2022. That said, only one-third of employers planned to increase salaries by more than 3%, which is hardly keeping pace with inflation rates in most major economies. Naturally, sectors facing the most skills shortages stood to make more, and this held true across banking, manufacturing, construction, tech, and engineering. Overall, compensation costs for private industry workers in service occupations increased 7.8 per cent from March 2021 to March 2022 after increasing 3.9 per cent in the year ended March 2021. Over the same period, compensation costs for private industry workers in all industries and occupations increased 4.8 per cent after increasing 2.8 per cent for the year ended March 2021. Since we wrote about lawyers, accountants, and consultants last week, this week, we will focus on blue-collar workers.
If you do not work in the HR profession, you may be surprised by how people rank compensation. When looking for a job, hourly workers have historically valued pay as the top factor when deciding among jobs. It is hardly a surprise that people follow the money, but what may be news is how much of a priority money has been. In the past, the Voice of the Blue-Collar Worker survey showed that 32% of job-seekers chose compensation as their top factor when deciding among jobs. That number has risen to 40% for 2022. Suffice it to say that blue-collar workers want to get paid more, in part because they are most susceptible to sky-high inflation rates. Workers valuing money highly combined with labour shortages – there are two jobs for every job-seeker right now – means that wages look likely to grow. “It is likely that severe labour shortages will continue through 2022,” wrote Gad Levanon, Vice President of Labour Markets at The Conference Board. “During that time, overall wage growth is likely to remain well above 4 per cent. Wages for new hires and workers in blue-collar and manual services jobs will grow faster than average.”
The pandemic made us acutely aware of how reliant the world is on blue-collar and manual labour workers. But even before that, these workers were gaining ground on white-collar workers. For three decades, white-collar workers had been earning more and more compared to blue-collar workers, but that trend started to change in the late 2010s. Overall, the pandemic has seemed to accelerate this reversal. As the global economy (mostly) 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. That said, experts predict that the tight labour market will not last forever, but the retirement of baby boomers and other longer-term demographic factors are creating a gap between manual labour job demand and workers available to hire for them.
For workers in blue-collar industries such as construction, transportation and manufacturing, and workers in manual service sectors including food service, leisure, hospitality and beauty and healthcare services, they’ve seen the highest jump in wages in recent years. Those wages continue to increase post-pandemic. After the risks these people took to keep the world running during the pandemic – while the rest of us were working from home – they deserve it.