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More Young Oregonians Heading Into Blue Collar Jobs

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The share of young Oregonians going into traditional blue collar jobs is on the rise. That’s according to a new analysis by a state economist.

At the height of the last recession, fewer than ten percent of Oregon young adults were going into the trades: jobs like building construction, plumbing, machine repair, or driving trucks. Economists wondered if the drop was due solely to a lack of jobs, or whether young people were simply no longer interested.

It turns out, they were interested, said Josh Lehner, an economist for the state of Oregon. “As the economy is stronger today, there’s a lot more job opportunities out there, and young Oregonians are filling these occupations at a much higher rate than they were a few years ago,” he said.

According to the numbers Lehner crunched, currently 25 percent of males age 19-24 in Oregon are in blue collar jobs. That's up from 15 percent a decade ago. The percentage of women in blue collar jobs has remained fairly steady over that time, at around four percent.

Lehner says these jobs consistently pay well and are hard to automate. That means young people entering blue collar professions can likely expect a long-term career path.

“The prospects for growth and a career for the longevity are certainly much brighter, and so they do provide good career paths for people who don’t want to sit in a college classroom for four years and go that route,” said Lehner.

The data for Lehner's analysis came from the American Community Survey, an annual publication from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Chris Lehman has been reporting on Oregon issues since 2006. He joined the KLCC news department in December, 2018. Chris was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and graduated from Temple University with a degree in journalism. His public broadcasting career includes stops in Louisiana and Illinois. Chris has filed for national programs including “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”
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